Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chess Has A New World Champion

... and his name is Viswanathan Anand!

I could not think of a more deserved winner. My heartiest congratulations to Anand, his wife Aruna and the whole of India!

Undefeated in the tournament with a +4 score and #1 in the FIDE ratings. What more is there to say!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Exam Resit

My finals exam was an absolute disaster and I failed to reach the 80% passing mark and had to resit, in other words, I failed. Major bummer. This means I have resit the exam within the next 2 weeks.

My performance on Wednesday night rapid chess was atrocious. I won 2 games (mostly due to my opponents making mistakes under time pressure) and lost my final game as White against Les Mikolajczyk (which I thoroughly deserved, no less).

Next Wednesday will see the end of this rapid chess competition and 3 weeks later, the start of the Classical competition.

I'm still limping along (yes, limping) on FICS and my Blitz rating has only gone up marginally from 1245 to 1280, showing I still need a lot of improvement.

I'll be getting some Tactics CD Training soon and once my exam is done, I will work on them.

In the meantime, because of work commitments, I can't go down and see the competition at Ryde Eastwood League club for the Ryde Eastwood Open this Labour Day weekend (as I have to work on Saturday and Monday).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Endgame #2007-09-25

Took some time off my studies to practise my game in preparation for tomorrow.

I logged onto FICS and started playing. And despite weathering some early pressure, I reach an ending as shown:

Black had just played the move 58.... e4. What should White do?

There's only 2 options worth considering:
59. Kd4 or 59. Kxb4

Which would you choose? One leads to a win, the other a loss.

Highlight the solution within the brackets:
[If you pick 59. Kxb4 e3 60. fxe3 f3!! And Black's f-pawn queens. The correct answer was 59. Kd4 59... e3 60. fxe3 fxe3 61. Kxe3 Kxa7 62. Kf4 Kb6 63. Kg5 Kc5 64. Kxg6 Kd4 65. h4 Kc3 66. h5 Kxb3 67. h6 Ka2 68. h7 b3 69. h8=Q b2 and White has reached a winning K+Q v K+P endgame and Black only has a Knight's pawn and cannot draw 1-0]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Busy The Next Few Days

Due to pressing commitments, I will be unable to update my blog as much as I would like to this week.

Have been ho-humming a lot with respect to getting a decent tactics software program, an opening repertoire and an endgame studies.

For now, I'm still poring over (between my studies) Karsten Muller's endgames in ChessCafe.

As for the tactics software, I'm thinking of getting Convekta's Total Chess Training. Will update you fellows in the next few days once my finals are over.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Board Visualisation Problems

The morning after.... I logged onto FICS. And played a few games.

I think I am having OTB visualisation problems. For some reason yesterday, I couldn't calculate deeper variations.

But after a few games on FICS, I realise that I do see variations much deeper than I thought.

Take a look for example this position.

I am Black (board has been flipped). Pieces are just about equal. A quick scan on the board tells me 2 things.

White is suffering from weaknesses on the pawn f4 and the square b4. Now a plan started to form in my head.

Loading the game in Fritz shows that Fritz naturally wants to take the pawn on f4 immediately. However, I realised that the pawn is going nowhere and cannot be adequately defended (g3 leads to Bxh3 - fatally weakening White's kingside so I'm in no rush to take it).

What I do want is prepare an adequate defence and prepare an attack. Before I do that, I need to restructure my forces.

My Queen on d6 is doing diddly squat. What I want is to move my Queen to another location where it can adequately defend the a and b pawn. The problem is: if my Queen moves, I've left a gap in square e7 so I first proceed to plug the gap.

23... Bf8
24. Qe3? Qc7 {Not sure what White is doing here - I looked briefly at that White might want to do a c pawn storm to break through the queenside defence but I found nothing so I continue my plan and relocate my Queen}
25. c4 Bd6 {Now my setup is complete}
26. c5 {too little too late} Bxf4
27. Qf2? Bh2+ {I felt this check was necessary as I want to force the King to h1}
28. Kh1 Bg3 {now to drive away the Queen}
29. Qf6 b5
30. axb5 {see second diagram} cxb5
31. Qa6? {this move surprised me but White has to do something about the b5 pawn} a4 {threatening the Knight}
32. Nd2 {forced} Qf4
33. Nf3 Qc1+ {0-1 White resigns as it cannot stop mate}

I'm not overly happy with this game but the game shows that I can come up with a plan and execute it. But why didn't I see any of this yesterday? Frankly, I'm frustrated.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Patzers Anonymous

That was a fun night. I basically lost all my games due to carelessness and horrible endgame technique. Okay, half my brain was on my studies and trying to recall how to reset the ARP cache for a router and how Ethernet frames get processed on a network. The other half of my brain wanted to get it over and done with (which is surely no way to play a game).

I basically lost my head. Played an opening I didn't know and promptly got thrashed. I deserve it, actually. Oh well, live and learn.

Is there a support group for Patzers Anonymous? I'll be the first to sign up, that's for sure. :)

Steven, my brother-in-law surprisingly got beaten (well, considering he flew in from Melbourne, I give him that).

If this game was a proper standard game instead of a rapid game, I'll gladly burn my scoresheet than let someone else see it. It was that bad.

I want to have good memories. Sort of like Arnie in Total Recall.... does anyone know where I can get the number for Rekall?

Off To Competition Then

20 minutes away from my competition. And I'm going off now. *gulp*. Yes, with my lecture notes in tow..... :)

I Would Not Buy Any Chess Books

Yes, I would not buy any more chess books...... but chess videos...... hmmmm....... now, that's a different story.

First off, I know the amount of material in a book will always cover much more than a chess video. So what is it about chess videos that make people (ok, me, in particular) go ga-ga over them?

Welcome to the world of instant gratification. In other words, welcome to my world. I am finding myself severely short on time (did someone say time management? :) ). I have 2 exams this week and only studied one of them and the exams are tomorrow night and I have a rapid competition on tonight at my chess club. *insert scream*.

By shelling out some hard-earned $$$ on some chess material (needs pre-approval from wife first, I'll gently explain to her it's cheaper than hiring a chess tutor), hopefully, I can manage my time better. Really, I am seriously considering getting a chess video to work on chess as I can ill afford wasting any more time than is necessary between wife, studies and chess and the 1,001 odd little repair jobs needed around the house.

I am also in need of getting a chess software and am now considering between CT-ART, Chess Position Trainer or other software based on Tactics Training to brush up on my chess. I don't think I can go wrong with more tactics training.

Over the next few days, I'll be evaluating some of these software. Hopefully, I can get one applicable to my needs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ugly Moves

How does one improve chess skill?

I've been pondering over it the last few days.

When one looks at chess position OTB, how does one know instinctively if a move is good, bad, could be better? In chess, the common problem with patzers like me is that I tend to make average moves. Even worse, in a complicated tactical position, I have a problem of either:

a. Not calculating variations deep enough
b. Being oblivious to my opponent's threats

The answer unfortunately, that I have arrived is that I need to do more tactics. If I have tactics down pat, I should be able to logically figure out what moves are optimal and what moves are not. I am currently looking for a couple of Chess Books/CDs/DVDs that are not just 1-2 moves but 4+ moves to in order to improve my tactical skill (or as some people like to call it, chess "eye").

I am quite frankly tempted to shell out some money to get some help (I can't afford a chess coach) rather than working on blindly with no direction whatsoever. Reinfeld's 1,001 Combinations is fine and one can blitz through it in record time because of the 1,2,3 move combinations that stick out in your face at once but I need something more in-depth. I am well open to suggestions at this point in time to anything.

On a sidenote, with my finals coming up soon near the end of October, I can afford precious little time (not to mention, I need to concentrate more on my 2 exams this week *yikes*) to concentrate on chess studies.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Combination #2009-09-15

This game was taken from Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games. The year was 1927. Young Mikael Botvinnik, at the age of 15, participated in the Leningrad tournament in a strong field of 6.

His opponent in Black here was Grigoriev. Black had just played. 27..... Kh8.

What did the future patriarch of Soviet chess see in this position?

Highlight the text between the square brackets for the answer
[28. Rxe5! dxe5 (28... Qxe5 29. Qxf8+ Ng8 30. Qf7 Nf6 31. Rd1 guarding the back rank +-) 29. d6 Qd8 30. dxc7! Qxd2 31. Qxf8+ Ng8 32. c8=Q Black resigns 1-0]

Now That Presentation Is Over...

I just would like to comment on the Lightning competition that took place on the night of the prize giving presentation.

IM Xie, father and son Smirnov, Kovacs, Wright, Mandla, Kordahi, Mandla, Greenwood, Norman as well as Steven (my brother-in-law), Theresa, and other fellow members of Ryde Eastwood chess club took part as well.

The competition had a minor incident in which Morelias got into an argument (yet again - yes, he got involved with Gletsos the last time a similar Lightning competition was held last month). He promptly upped and left the tournament hall without telling anyone and it was only after the next pairing was announced that Gletsos noticed he went AWOL. Sigh.

The competition consisted of a 9 round-robin 10 min Lightning game (5 min per player). I got wins over Greenwood (time), Gu (my 8 year old opponent blundered unfortunately under time pressure..... errr, 'nuff said) and also got a bye. So that means I got trampled to dust by...... hmmm... now that I think of it, by virtually everyone else...... nice. Have you ever seen pictures of a whale eating krill? Think of my opponents as the whales and me as plankton about to become food for the krill and you get the picture.

The biggest shock of my last round when unrated old me, got paired with Big Vladimir Smirnov (did I forget to mention he has an ELO of 2,260?) and I've got the Black pieces (I am sure if I was White, my chances of winning would've tripled to 0.00000001%) . When the pairing was announced, I accidentally let out a very loud "WHATT!!!" much to the amusement of quite a few players who were present.

I wouldn't discuss much of the game except that in those 5 minutes, I got taken apart methodically by Vlad (who didn't bat an eyelid). Come to think of it, never was there a greater mismatch between 2 players in the history of our club (> 1,000 ELO point rating difference).

During the game, I think I kept Vlad deep in concentration (or was he sleepy from the lousy moves I keep making?) Maybe he was thinking,"Keep dreaming, mister, this is about as close to 2,000 ELO points as you'll ever get." or "Should I sac my Rook for his Queen and win? Or even better, sac my Queen for his Pawn and win?" *grin*

The game ended when I got trapped in a potential mating net and resigned. We briefly shook hands and he left. Not a single word uttered. I am not sure in the end, if it was because I felt embarassed by losing or he felt embarassed by winning, but I'm more inclined to believe in the former. Or maybe I accidentally angered him because I once interrupted him over a discussion of a game he had with his opponent a few months ago. :)

Incidentally, what do you do when you meet opponents OTB who has such a huge difference in ELO points between yourself and your opponent?

In the end, IM George Xie took top honours for the competition with Vlad coming in second.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NSWCA Grade Presentation At Ryde Eastwood RSL

Yes, the annual presentation is here upon us again. So I brought along a small camera to take pictures of the presentation. Unfortunately, being an absolute klutz at digital photography (aka. me fiddling around with some rather strange looking camera buttons), I was unable to take some of the presentations so if there are any photos of anyone I missed, I most humbly apologise. Sorry.

A lightning competition was organised at the same venue. As is fast becoming customary, George Xie took first place. Vladimir Smirnov came in second.

Unrated moi (aka. me) participated in the event just for fun (I mean, how often do you get to play players who are clearly out of your league?) I had a really fun time, getting beaten the living daylights by just about every opponent. It's a good thing my torture only lasted 9 rounds.

Anyway, onto the presentation photos. My heartiest congratulations to all the winners!

IM George Xie (ELO 2406) 6½/7 (Canterbury) Board prize in the Open division.

Robert Kovacs 6½/9 (St George) Board prize in the U1500 division.

Neil Wright 8/9 (ELO 2199) (Sydney Academy of Chess) Board prize in the Open division.

Blair Mandla (ELO 1874) 8/8 (Parramatta) Board prize in the U1900 division.

Vasil Tulevski (ELO 1878) 6/8 (Parramatta) Board prize in the U1900 division.

Nick Kordahi 7½/8 (St George) Board prize in the U1700 division.

Blair Mandla receiving his teams challenge medals.

Norm Greenwood (North Sydney) receiving his teams challenge medal.

Sean Gu receiving his prize

Vladimir Smirnov (ELO 2260) receiving his teams challenge board prize and medal.

Brendon Norman (ELO 1902) receiving his teams challenge board prize and medal.

Anton Smirnov collecting teams challenge medals

North Sydney Ford Competition: Musings

I popped by the North Sydney chess club last night for a quick hour or two to see the Ford competition games.

First of all, hats off, I was mightily impressed by Board 1 player, Vladimir Smirnov. A very talented player. His opponent got into a losing position and was gracious enough to resign instead of fighting on as his position was unsalvageable. Vladimir then took his time to discuss the game over with his opponent, highlighting any mistakes as well as strategies and possible variations to improve his position. Top class bloke.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Simple Endgame : Philidor's Position

Endgame theory represents the cornerstone of all chess games. GMs, IMs, FMs, National Masters all know their basic endgame theory by heart.

This particular endgame has roots going back to a Frenchman by the name of Francois-Andre Danican Philidor. He was born on September 7, 1726 in Dreux, France. Philidor was exceptionally gifted in the game of chess (and music) and was then regarded as the unofficial world champion.

Have a look at this position. Yes, I've turned the board upside down to make it easier to play. Black to play and draw. What would you play?

There's no answer given here. If you don't know, just fire up Crafty or Fritz or Rybka and go over it with an endgame tablebase. Okay, if you really want to know, go to Wikipedia for the answer: Philidor's position

Not Very Manly

I didn't participate in the end for the Manly Springs Tournament as the arrangements have already been made. Steven arrived late as my nephew was having rehearsals and his match had to be postponed. I may not be attending Manly Chess Club in the future as it's too far and takes half an hour to drive home to my place.

Overall, it's a nice little club but the distance is proving way too much for me to overcome.

I also have this matter of studies that I need to do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Manly Monday

It's Monday again and I'm off to the Manly Chess club tonight to watch my brother-in-law play. The Spring Tournament starts tonight but I'm unsure if I should participate because of the commitment necessary as I'm worried my studies might be affected.

Should I join, not join? I honestly don't know. In any case, I'll head down tonight to have a look see and play it by ear.

Trap #2007-09-10

On FICS today, I encountered the following position. The position looks roughly even. My opponent just played 23... d3 which I think just simply loses the d-pawn and the ensuing endgame looks to be winning for white. However, I thought over this position for a while then decided to lay a little trap for my unususpecting opponent... guess what did I play?

Highlight the spaces between the brackets for the moves.
[24. Bc4+ (24.. Bd5 was needed but this simply loses the d-pawn for nothing) but my opponent fell into the trap and play continued with 24... Kg7? 25.cxd3 Bxd3?? (25... Bd5 was again necessary) 26. Re7+ 1-0 as Black loses after 26....Rf7 (26... Kh8 27. Rh1#) 27. Rxf7+ Kg8 28. Rd7+ Bxc4 29. Rxd8+]

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tactics #2007-09-07

I was on FICS this morning and yet again, I let a win slip through my fingers.

My tactical vision is indeed poor. Take a look at this. I am Black. White has just played 33. Kf3-g4. My Queen is under attack - that much is obvious. But can you see the continuation?

I blundered and played 33. Qd7 after which I offered a draw which my opponent readily accepted. What did I miss?

Highlight the lines between the brackets to reveal the answer
[The move I missed was 33. Qf7!
34. Nxg5 Qh5#
34. Kxg5 Rf5+! 35. Qxf5 Rh5+ 36. Kf4 Qxf5+ the White Queen is lost and Black will give mate in another few moves eg. 37. Ke3 Qe4+ 38. Kd2 Rh2+ 39. Re2 Rxe2+ 40. Kd1 Qxc2# ]

Friday, September 7, 2007

Combination #2007-09-06

This was played in a 10 minutes blitz game in FICS. I am Black.

White just made the horrendous move of 28. Re1-h1. Do you see the deadly error that White made?

What would you as Black play? Probably not the move I played!

Highlight the text between the brackets for the answer [I played 28... Ne3! Urgh. While not a terrible move, I missed the mating combination. I should have played 28... Qe2+ 29. Kh3 (29. Kg1 Bc5 mates) Ne3 (and White is powerless to stop mates on Qg2 or Qh5)]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Got Away With Another Win

This game was played a few moments ago on FICS. Black has just played 19. Rd7. Clearly Black is intending to double on the d-file and come swinging around entrapping the Queen with Rd2. I wasn't afraid of swapping a Queen for 2 Rooks in this case as the position is fairly open but what I am worried about is that pesky Knight on c6. And Q+N combinations are particularly deadly.

Another problem with my position was that pawn on b5 holding everything up and I desperately wanted that square c4.

I took sometime to consider and played the best response I could think of at that moment. I targeted the b-pawn.

20. a4! Rfd8? (Black's best response is probably....a6 and my counterplay has all but gone but my opponent appeared too focused on his attack)
21. axb5 (now I'm winning I've broken through his weak pawn chain and attacking his Knight) Rd2??
22. Qxc4+ 1-0 (Black loses a piece after Qxc4 23. Bxc4+ Kh8 bxc6)

Another lucky win (not too particularly happy). I'll fire up Fritz on this position when I get home.

How Do You Attack?

This game was played a few months ago, between Mikhail Gurevich and A Lie at the Arctic Chess Challenge, 2007.

In this game, White had just played 32. Kg2.

White is obviously in trouble but how can Black press on the attack? I was watching this game live on the internet and Black's next move took me completely by surprise.

What did Black play?

Highlight the answer within the brackets:

[Black could have played Qxd5 or Bd4 but Black saw an even better move. White is suffering from light-square weaknesses squares g4 and h3 are problematic squares for White. So Black played the move Qd7!! A very strong move. White has no defence to the attack and play continued as follows .... 33. Ne3 (forced but this blockades the Bishop on d2 and White is now in ever deeper trouble) Nf4+ (this temporary knight sacrifice works as Black now has an overwhelming attack) 34. Kxf3 (this capture is forced as Kf1 or Kh1 runs into Qh3+ threatening all sorts of nasty things) Qh3+ 35. Ng3 (now Black finishes White off with a pretty combination) Nh5+ 36. Ke2 Nxg3+ 37. Kd1 Rxf2 38. Qxg6 Qh1+ 0-1 ]

Monday, September 3, 2007


Tonight, I went to the Manly Warringah Chess Club to watch my brother-in-law Steven play in the rapid (25 min time controls) tournament. While I was there, Steven encouraged me to sign up for the last 4 games anyway so I did.

How did I do? Okay, I guess. I got extremely lucky against the lower rated players (around 1200-1300 ELO rating) and ended up with a score of +3-0=1 or 3.5/4 in the Rapid tournament.

In the only game I drawn, I should have lost that game but my opponent missed the winning move in time pressure and allowed me to draw comfortably. The fact I managed to get a draw is of no consolation for me. I know that against higher rated opponents, I would have lost without batting an eyelid. I was practically kicking myself when I saw I had a lost endgame!

In my final game, I managed to win but it was a horrible, horrible way to win. See the position in the diagram. Black played Re8+. White of course should play Bxe8 but nooooooo.... I played Kf7 and after I played that move, I saw the Rook was en prise. Talk about a mistake of humongous proportions.

I'm still can't believe I didn't see the immediate win. What a dufus I am.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

An Opening Trap

I played another blitz game (I should really give up blitz games, they're bad for my play) on FICS. This one involved a Ruy Lopez: Deferred Stenitz Var.

I am White and it is Black's turn. Can Black play 1....Bxe4?

Highlight the answer below (within the backets):

[No. 1... Bxe4 runs into the nasty Rook pin with Re1 followed by f3, winning the Bishop. Black might achieve some counterplay because of the open a7-e1 diagonal to the White King but it's still very much in the early stage and it is doubtful Black has sufficient compensation for a lost Bishop.]

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I Don't Know What Move To Make

Time and again, I find myself facing tons of problems with this question.

Someone taught me this. Where every move can make or break your game, the solution is to simply, make the following line of thought:

1. If I give a free move and it was my opponent's turn, what is my opponent likely to do?
a. Is my king under attack?
b. Are any of my other major/minor pieces under attack?
c. Would any pawn push cause me great difficulty in defence/attack/counterplay?
d. Would the movement of any of my opponent's pieces break my position?
e. Did my opponent's last 3 moves threaten to do anything?

2. If the answer is no, then you would consider how to attack.
a. What is the weakest piece in my opponent's camp?
b. What is the weakest square in my opponent's camp?
c. Will any pawn push cause my opponent great difficulty?
d. Is my king safe when I conduct an attack?
e. If I were to rearrange the board mentally, what position would I want to look like? How do I go about doing it?
f. If I exchange all my pieces (or mentally remove them from the board), can I win the endgame?

This sounds like a lot to take in but I am trying to do it. I still have problems with points 1(a), 1(e), 2(a), 2(b), 2(d).

And my position always turns up dreadful. Oh well, just practise harder.... I guess.