Friday, May 30, 2008

Chess Magazines And Opening Knowledge

Chess players are thoroughly spoilt these days with a variety of chess magazines.Informator, New In Chess, Chessbase.... lots and lots of chess material and a huge number of them devote their sections to opening novelties.

Truth be told, for a patzer like me, I don't need to know Kramnik's 21st novelty move in the Catalan or Vishy's 37th new move in the Ruy Lopez.

So why do chess openings seem to grasp our attention so much?

The Chinese have an idiom,"A good start means that you're halfway to success."

I apologise for sounding like a fortune cookie but I learnt a valuable lesson on Wednesday night in my loss.

I misplayed my opening. Instead of going with my tried and trusted response to 1.e4, I did something crazy and duly got whalloped. You can say, that after the 6th move, I spent the rest of the 40 odd moves trying to repair the damage, leading to more holes and weak squares appearing all over my position.

In short, the game was effectively over in 6 moves.

Anyway, back to chess magazines. If you're looking to improve your opening knowledge, I'm giving a quick run-through some of the major ones (I apologise for leaving out TWIC - The Week In Chess) - they would be more than sufficient for the average club player.

Chess Informator/Informant. I got my hands on a very very old Informator (borrowed it from someone) and I was scared off my pants by the amount of knowledge that was present in there. This isn't some Uncle Bob's home cooked analysis, you're looking at heavy duty opening theory and annotations (Informator uses the well-known method of using symbols in their annotations so there's no words in their explanations). If you are thinking of making chess a career, this probably belongs to your must-have library. For the amateur (below 2000), I give this a miss.

Chessbase Magazine. I acquired a dated Chessbase Magazine 121 and found it was wonderful. Chessbase magazine tackles the chess theme in a slightly different way. The DVD format is of a huge help - you get Chess done - the multimedia way, you get a nice array of multimedia videos and chessbase files to work through for some of the opening knowledge. However, I was a bit disappointed in that Chessbase sometimes inserts "fillers" (you know how it's like when you go to catch a movie, and the cinema operators try to show filler movies to grab your attention like "Coming soon to a theatre near you" when all you want is to get the actual movie to start?). It's a bit like that. However, what I was disappointed was that some of the videos were in German! Errr... ok. Okay, I know Muller speaks in his native tongue in his Endgame videos but really, Chessbase should cater for a more international audience and trying to stick in a few videos in German with no equivalent videos in English gives you that same feeling of having the rug pulled from under you and gives you the feeling of being left out. One of the problem I realise is that the opening knowledge is not one that is catered for beginners but rather for people who already have a pet opening repertoire and looking to explore other possibilities within their repertoire. So if you're looking to have a bit of fun where you can relax back and work through possible improvements in your opening repertoire and at the same time, catch up on recent chess events/competitions, then this DVD is for you.

New In Chess. I love this magazine. I am fortunate in that my local library occasionally purchases them. It's fairly lightweight and I find them to be fun to read! Think "chess for the masses ie. the non-super Grandmasters" and you'll know what I mean. It contains both serious and fairly lightweight columns, giving you a nice balance between the amateur and the more serious.

And finally, we come to one of my favourite websites on opening theory, They have a variety of subscriptions but I found the best value for this site for an amateur like me is probably the 3-for-2 subscription. For about AU$50 odd bucks a year, you get periodic updates on 3 of your favourite openings for the price of 2. This is more than sufficient for you to use in tournament play for players under a rating of 2000. They also have a forum for you to air your views, and you get to mingle with like-minded players.

Updated note: Lest it be misconstrued, I don't subscribe to any of these magazines on a regular basis. They were more for curiosity, rather than anything. In tournament play at patzer level, getting a few of those Starting Out books based on your favourite repertoire and maybe 2 more serious opening books is definitely more than enough for the typical club player. In the end, your opening repertoire is designed to ensure you don't suffer as I did. Tactics, strategies and endgame training should still be the mainstay of your chess training.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Winning Is Everything, Right?

I basically lost my head and naturally lost my game playing on Board 1 for the U1400 NSW Grade Matches Round 2 last night.

However, an amazing incident happened. My opponent was from St George. He was slowly but surely going to win his game. We reached the position shown with White to play.

Suddenly, he moved his right hand, grabbed the g-pawn, moved it to g4, say,"Check!" and hit the clock.

I was stunned. Mainly because he had just completed an illegal move. I didn't know what to do at this point as clearly he made an illegal move, I told him that he can't do that and he realised to his horror what he has done. He then tried to take back his move but I stopped him and say,"You can't do that."

The arbiter (TD) Bill Gletsos was not around and had briefly left the hall and I tried looking for him and found him sitting on the sofa just outside the room chatting to my brother-in-law Steven. I informed Bill about the illegal move.

Bill subsequently told me that the correct procedure was to give me an additional 2 minutes. I told him that I do not know how to set the clock in this way.

So we both made our way back to the board and surprise, surprise, he had moved his g-pawn back and had instead used the Rook on e5 to capture my Rook on f5 and was acting like nothing had happened.

When questioned about it, he lied through his teeth and said,"Yes, I played Rook takes Rook."

At this point, I was so disappointed with his response. He was in a totally winning position and there was really no need for him to do this kind of thing.

Can you imagine that, a player playing on Board 1 with a rating of 1360++, playing against an unrated player (me) in the Under-1400 Grade Matches just didn't want to own up that he made a mistake.

The incident was resolved after his team captain spoke a few brief words to Bill and the clock was adjusted and the game continued.

I resigned a few moves later.

Lest it be known, I have no qualms about losing. I played like crap and thoroughly deserved to lose and I applaud him for his good play.

The reason I didn't know what was to be done was because this was the first time it had occurred to me. I take part of the blame in not knowing what I should have done.

My brother-in-law Steven subsequently told me that what I should have done, is to ask a fellow player to keep watch over the board while I go look for Bill and to make sure my opponent recorded the move on his scoresheet so there is no denial in the future.

I will keep this in mind.

I am just thoroughly disappointed with my opponent's behaviour. This isn't some multi-million dollar competition. It's just a game for crying out loud, playing for some silly rating number that does not make you a better human being or a worse one should you win or lose.

After the game, nevertheless, I gave my opponent a little hand on the shoulder and congratulated him for his win and told him that there was no need for him to do what he did because the penalty was only adding an additional 2 minutes on my clock.

It was only after the game when I asked Steven if I should have approached Bill in this instance and he told me that what I had done was correct. But what I also did wrong was to leave the board unattended and didn't wait for him to record the move else it was a my-word-vs-his word thing. Steven told me that my opponent's team captain didn't believe him either and which was why my clock was adjusted.

Just in case you're wondering, my opponent isn't some young kid. He's easily over 40 years old.

This was my first game in a Grade Match. Now I know the kind of players I can expect from St George. Btw, he never did apologise for his behaviour.

Welcome to the world of competitive chess. Win with grace and lose with dignity indeed.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chess Players Are A Pretty Sad, Lonely Bunch

You know your hobby is not acting in your best interests and is probably affecting your social life when one of your favourite websites starts doing product placements like this:

Could be worse. My first reaction was that one of my favourite GMs, Sergei Movsesian underwent a really amazing sex-change operation.... (that's because tends to put the player's photos at the exact same spot where the ad is).

Hmm..... I wonder how many hits that advertisement generated.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NSW Grade Matches Results So Far

Ryde-Eastwood Chess Club
Performance Grade Results

(NB:Ryde-Eastwood players highlighted in bold
- note that the names highlighted in bold
DOES NOT MEAN these players have White)


Under 1800

Liu, Steven Hern (1779)
v Talum (?), Lito (u/r) 1-0
Escalante, Lorenzo (1742) v Mejzini, Jack (1607) 0-1
Zielinski, Konrad (1679) v Foong, Tze Weng (1621) 1-0
Christensen, Joshua (1651) v Greenwood, Norman (1530) 1-0

Club Standings

Place Name Score



Under 1600

Hickey, James (1594) v Ruan, Jack (1557) 0-1
Hale, Dennis (1591) v Papantoniou, John (1629) 0-1
Mikolajczyk, Les (1473) v Ruan, Harry (1459) 0-1
Chiara, Vince (1389) v Gu, Sean (1361) 0-1

Club Standings
Place Name Score
3 MANLY 3 pts

to play against Bonnyrigg tomorrow (Wed) at Ryde-Eastwood RSL at 7.30pm

Likely Opponents from Bonnyrigg

Blazeski, Krste (1647), Todorovski, Marjan (1587), Banovic, Milko (u/r)


Under 1400

to play against St George Dragons tomorrow (Wed) at Ryde-Eastwood RSL at 7.30pm

Douglas Eyres (1222), Simon Parker (u/r), Greig Edwards (u/r) and Chee Tan (u/r) with first reserve: Luke Farrugia (u/r)

Likely Opponents from St George Dragons
Taric, Omar (1361), Keuning, Patrick J (1358), Ollivain, Thierry (1342), Johansson, Par (Peter) (1335)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Out Of Shape, Out Of Touch

Boy, am I not only out of touch with chess, I am also badly out of shape.

I logged onto FICS and promptly got caned in 10 successive games.

Fun, fun, fun.....

Tomorrow I intend to take my module exams for module 3 and 5. The end of my school term is fast approaching and I cannot be lax now with the final hurdle and graduation from this class just 5-6 weeks away.

As for chess, I need to rework from basics all over again. I've forgotten some of the lines I played in response to 1.d4 and 1.e4 and I suddenly found myself ho-humming just 4 moves into the some of the games.

The problem herein I feel is that after studying chess, not all of it gets into long-term memory so I would need to re-train my brain when the time comes.

That means on Wednesday morning and lunch-time at work, I need to cram in my opening repertoire and sharpen my tactical and positional skills again.

I need to start playing blitz the odd while so that I can remember the moves.

On a separate note, dk and Phaedrus have started a collaboration on a global eBook for middlegames. If you are interested and have the necessary time to help them out, please drop them a note on the link. It's a massive undertaking and I sincerely hope that this project becomes successful.

That's all for now.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Update On Grade Matches

Les Mikolajczyk has replied to my email regarding my participation in the Grade Matches. So instead of moving to the U-1600, I'm now shuffling between 2 divisions, both the U-1400 and the U-1600. It looks like there were players who either could not travel or could not play on those dates. So I got drafted in. In addition, Les also mentioned that I might be asked to fill in in case some people cannot make it.

So now my updated schedule looks like this:

U-1400: 28 May (Wed): Ryde Eastwood vs St George Dragons
U-1400: 02 Jun (Mon): Rooty Hill vs Ryde Eastwood
U-1600: 03 Jun (Tue): North Sydney Grizzlies vs Ryde Eastwood
U-1400: 11 Jun (Wed): Ryde Eastwood vs North Sydney
U-1600: 17 Jun (Tue): St George Dragons vs Ryde Eastwood (or)
U-1400: 17 Jun (Tue): St George Saints vs Ryde Eastwood
U-1400: 25 Jun (Wed): Ryde Eastwood vs Manly
U-1400: 02 Jul (Wed): Ryde Eastwood vs Parramatta
U-1600: 08 Jul (Tue): Nth Syd Brown Bears vs Ryde Eastwood

Well, I obviously can't play on both boards simultaneously against St George on 17th June so one board will have to give.

I'm a bit worried on that day as well. The final exam for my studies is some 5 weeks away so it would be around that time for both my final theory and final exam (after that, it's no more studies for me). I'll just have to see how it goes.

In the U-1600 group, my club didn't play well unfortunately on Tuesday. Vince Chiara, Dennis Hale, James Hickey and Les all lost against the players from St George.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NSWCA Grade Matches: I'm In The Under 1400 ??

Okay, much to my surprise, I got put into the Under-1400s group for the Grade matches (??). I know I am not rated but the looks on the faces of Shane and Joshua were priceless when I told them I got signed up to that group - which brought much reaction in the form of "what-the-heck" (?)

I've sent an email to Les asking if something could be done to move me to the under-1600s instead (although I doubt it'll happen). I had a quick look at some of the teams for this group. There's a couple of players in there whose rating is 1400++.

Van Elmpt, Martin (1448), Manly
Macgillivray, Ken (1421), Rooty Hill
Lee, Marco (1388), St George Saints
Sewell, Bob (1429), Parramatta
Keuning, Patrick J (1358), St George Dragons

I've a feeling that I'm certain to meet at least one of these players considering I'm on Board 1 and there's a very good chance these players have probably improved since their last rating.

Lately, I find my chess skills deteriorating (alarmingly) and have been putting up dismal performances.

Take for example, last night. That was a horror showing from yours truly, who played quite a number of 10 minute blitz games against Vasey (1029) and I lost approx. 9 games out of 10.

Subsequently, Steven and I got a few blitz games as well and I only got 1 decent win out of 4 or 5 games against him.

Dang, I am just terrible at blitz chess. Plain and simple, I play crap chess at 10 minute time controls. My brain starts operating at 1 ply mode and it became a game of I-see- a-move-I-make-a-move reactionary chess. Maybe I should dunk my head in water.

Steven reckons that I become too eager and have a tendency to make a mess of middlegame positions. Frankly, I'm not surprised.

Vince Chiara lost to Arthur Hunyh last night so that means I got into the playoffs with the 1700++ group for the Club Championship. I expect a +0-8=0 rout.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't Forget To Smell The Roses

It's funny how playing chess can teach you things not found in textbooks.

I've been working in the IT industry for more than 10 years and the experience I obtained from my job is fairly predictable and thus, rather mundane.

Lest it be misconstrued, I like my job. I've been extremely fortunate and blessed to be employed in a position where I thoroughly enjoy my work.

This is why I took up night studies, not to further my career but rather to learn something new, something different, something outside of what I normally encounter at work. It energises my mind and gives me something to look forward to and helps to remove part of the normality of my working life.

Chess is a different beast altogether.

Why waxing philosophical all of a sudden you may ask? This was brought about because of something my brother-in-law Steven wrote on my birthday card. In it, he reckons I will beat him very soon if I continue my rate of progress (I've only started to play my first tournament and my results have been nothing except ordinary IMHO) but I doubt it very much.

This got me into thinking:

Is chess really that important in my life? I confess that it's a hobby that I enjoy very much and thus, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on it - at times, way too much, much to the ire of my wife.

And that's the problem with chess. It requires your constant attention to keep it growing.

So why am I so infatuated with chess? I found out why.

Chess is ultimately a test of skills, or for that matter, mental skills. It combines all the mental abilities of alertness, intelligence, responsiveness to change etc. into one neat package.

I discovered that chess itself is not interesting enough to sustain me and keep up my interest over a long period of time. It's a very good puzzle solver, no doubt.

But I found that it is the experience I got from playing opponents over the board that draws me in. I got to meet really interesting people on my personal journeys in chess. Some good, some bad.

I realised that after my first tournament was over, what I liked about the tournament was not the result but the journey. In addition, over the course of those 9 weeks, I learnt something more about myself; about my character, my fears, my anger, my disappointment, my joy. This was something I could not get from other games, like playing Monopoly or solving my daily Sudoku puzzles.

I really could not care less about ratings - I'm destined to be patzer-boy and I know I would never make it to Master level or ELO 2000 because the amount of time needed to study and practice chess to make it to that level would extract far too much time from me than is possible.

Know thyself, as they say.

For now, I enjoy the journey. But because I have only 24 hours in a single day, I know that life is much more than just chess and that I should from time to time, stop and smell the roses. This is pretty much why of late, I've gone into a somewhat semi-recluse state, spending time away from chess and not putting as much drive as I did a few months ago.

Perhaps one day, my passion for chess will die but what does matter is that my passion for life does not. Life goes on and at that time, chess will be nothing more than a mark in my personal journey.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Laptop Blues

What a time for my laptop to give way.

I have put my name up for the Grade matches (playing against other clubs) and it starts pretty soon. In fact, it's next week. Les sent me an email some time back and I've reproduced it below:

"Dear Members,
The above competition starts on 19 May and will continue until 24 July, if you would like to play in a team for Ryde-Eastwood please let me know by return email or talk to Dennis Hale on Wednesday night. You must be a member of NSWCA to play in this competition.

Les Mikolajczyk

Ryde-Eastwood Leagues Chess Club"

So what was I doing with my laptop?

Amongst other things, investigating 3 opening lines.

Line #1: Ruy Lopez - Archangelsk Var. - can't remember the exact line now. I saw this in an old chess mag and it looked promising.

Line #2: French - Winawer Var. - the notes on this variation after a particular 6th (7th?) move order is lost. Bugger. And I can't remember what follows.

Line#3: Nimzo-Indian - Leningrad Var. - I need to borrow that chess book again from the library to figure out what was the idea.

The only thing I have to do is reconstruct my database and opening repertoire. It was the only thing I didn't backup (major duh). The other problem is having to ask re-input all the moves from my tournament score sheets and asking Fritz to redo its magic (ie. blunder check).

A good thing I keep backups of some of the miscellaneous chess stuff onto separate CDs and DVDs.

I did turn up at the club on Wednesday and Bill, Alan, Steven and I played some lightning games (5 minute games). By the 4th game, my mind had tired (my stamina in quick games is terrible) and I was blundering more and more. This teaches me that I have to work on my fitness both mentally and physically as they are crucial to keeping my energy levels up.

To our surprise, David French turned up! David used to be a regular player at the club before he moved to Melbourne and apparently, he's back here in Sydney. So that's all around good news. He hasn't played for some 18 months now and he's definitely rusty. I hope to see him around more often. He's a good player and his presence will be a boost for the club.

I was also informed by Bill that the players for my Club Competition's final playoffs are:

Bill Gletsos (1874)
Arthur Huynh(1837)
Steven Liu (1779)
Lorenzo Escalante (1742)
Joshua Christensen (1651)

Tough crowd.

The only spot left for grabs is either down to me or Vince Chiara (1389). As of now, Vince has a chance to tie me if he manages to beat Arthur in his final round. If he does, we go into a tie breaker.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GM Davies Threatens Lawsuit At S&BCC

I've been a reader of the blog Streatham & Brixton Chess Club for many months now. The blog gives me a good update on chess events happening in the UK.

However, what shocked me over the last few days was the heavy-handed response to a review of the book, The Dynamic Reti from GM Nigel Davies.

This led to a flurry of exchanges where GM Davies threatened legal action against a blog post and it was followed up with the supposed offending poster issuing an apology under that same post. GM Davies subsequently put out a somewhat-sniping retort under the header Nigel Davies emails (see below).

GM Davies also described what he feels in his blog at here and here.

If anyone is wondering about the original content, I'll give a quick break down.

In a reply (since removed) to the blog post on Echo Echo, the OP opined that Davies's work is comparable to Keene's work which might suggest some form of impropriety (ie. mildly alluding that Davies might be using Keene's analysis in his book since he lists Keene's book in his bibliography).

However, I wonder what possessed him to write the following to S&B CC:

"Thanks for removing those comments, I was left no choice but to defend myself. I see that a lot of the negative stuff is still up there and I do have something to say about this.

I’ve probably bought more chess books than your entire club put together, including some by the most damned authors out there. And it’s never occurred to me to try and do any kind of nitpicking hatchet job on them.

Why? The way I see it, books are just about the best value out there, you can gain insights into just about anything for the price of a few pints. And even the supposedly ‘worst’ authors (which ain’t me or Glenn Flear btw) usually have something interesting to say.

As an example, I started playing the Kan Sicilian after using a book on this opening that got really slated by the reviewers. It gave me an idea about the lines after which I started playing around with the thing with a board and pieces. It never occurred to me that I should be spoonfed or that this book should be perfect in every way. It saved me heaps of time in getting to grips with the thing and provided a starting point for my own thoughts.

Maybe the question you should be asking is why people are so negative about books. I believe the that the answer may be the key to why they’re not better players."

I thought this was way over-the-top.

Chess materials get reviewed all the time and reviewers by and large tend to be subjective because each reviewer's bias, perception and knowledge is different. Anyone reading Chesscafe's Checkpoint articles and John Watson's chess reviews would know what I mean. Some chess books gets ripped to absolute shreds.

Me? I find this whole event to be a storm in a teacup considering the original offending post was over a year old.

A close friend once told me,"Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Death Of A Chess Laptop

All of my chess stuff is stored on my laptop and yesterday, it decided to gasp its last breath .... for good.

The HDD is probably recoverable (together with most of my tournament results+opening repertoire as well as some Chessbase videos and Chess.FM videos) but unfortunately I can't get to it. My wife has a laptop but I don't feel like "usurping" her laptop for my chess stuff and I don't think that's fair.

So for now, I will have to scale back my chess stuff and find another way to record my chess stuff. I was also in the midst of preparing my opening repertoire and now I guess I have to resort to pen and paper instead of having a laptop to replay my moves.

Just Grrrrrrr......... eeeeeat!

One of my network administrators at work says I could probably get a refurbished laptop for cheap and gave me a weblink. I scoured the weblink and it looks interesting.

Some of the old laptops with 80GB HDD + 1 GB RAM and a Celeron are less than $300. I am quite tempted to get one of these but the missus might have something to say about spending more money on chess than is required.

Considering how much time and money I've already spent on chess videos, I don't think I can run this past her.

By the way, in case anyone is wondering why I have not been blogging much about chess stuff, it is because I'm right now in a lull period and taking a rather extensive break from chess after the Ryde Eastwood Club competition.

There's nothing on for me tomorrow at the club so I'm not sure if I want to go there anyway. I may instead want to stay at home and check out King's latest DVD.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Ozone Layer

As most of you realised, there is a big hole in the ozone layer over Antartica.

Because of this, fellas like us living in Australia literally get sun-baked.

It also has the unfortunate side-effect of making Australians do crazy things like falling in love with the "barbie" aka. BBQ and making Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max movies.

But have you ever wondered why there is such a huge gaping hole in the ozone layer in the Southern Hemisphere?

I have found the answer by accident.

It's not carbon emissions, heck it's not even cows' "emissions".

The true problem:

Air Hostesses

On my flight back to Sydney on British Airways, after checking in, settling into the passenger seat with most of the other passengers seated, BA air hostesses proceed to spray deodorant by the cans (with one in each hand) and all four of them walked up and down each aisle in turn, with fingers fully pressed on the nozzle. The whole plane was covered in deodorant "mist" when they're done. It was so bad, a few of the passengers (including myself) were coughing.

A good thing no one decided to lit up a cigarette at this time. The culprit might be accused of being a terrorist.

Either a passenger who has a really bad BO (body odour) came on board or they're secretly carrying out their dastardly deed of trying to enlarge the hole in the ozone layer and trying to ransom the UN for One Million Dollars! (cue: Dr. Evil).

I had a pretty nice one week break albeit it was a very short break. Now it's back to the grind and work beckons tomorrow.

Incidentally, I managed to pick up a Chessbase DVD in the midst of my travels. It is Daniel King's PowerPlay 6 DVD. I'll do a review of it in due time once I've looked through them.

For now, I'm dead tired and sleepy and need to catch some snooze.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not Outsmarting Your Competitors

The curse of being a chess player strikes again.

Yesterday afternoon, Steven and I went down to a local bookstore to pass some time. I walked past this book on the shelf and it caught my eye instantly.

Other than the smug looking idiot on the book cover, guess what's wrong with the picture?

Alert chess players will see it instantly.

On the cover, if you're having the dark pieces and the idiot is having the white pieces, on which side should your king be on and vice versa?

Maybe the book is hinting that one of the ways of outsmarting your competitors is to play the role of the fool.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My First Completed Tournament

The Ryde-Eastwood League competition has officially ended for me.

The competition has members being split into 3 groups of 9 rounds each.

The competition ran for 11 weeks. It definitely was not easy for me to juggle work, studies and fit in chess during this period.

In 9 rounds (including one bye and one forfeit), out of 7 games, my FIRST completed official tournament record stands at: +5-2=0 (5 wins, 2 losses and no draws).

I'll just give a quick recap of my games.

Round 1: Tan v Alan Marton (1366)
Result: 1-0
Summary: In attempting to trap my bishop, Alan missed a strategic idea and allowed me to create 2 passed pawns, namely, my e and f-pawns to march up the board.

Round 2: Vince Chiara (1389) v Tan
Result: 0-1
Summary: Vince had a slight advantage out of the opening. But he made a slip in the middlegame in attempting to drive out my Knight from its outpost allowing my Queen to invade the position. I did not choose the best moves in the position but did keep the advantage. Subsequently, Vince had to make an exchange sac or lose his Queen (R for N). From then on, Vince tried to create counterplay and defended like a tiger. However, after winning another pawn, I returned the exchange to win a second pawn to obtain a winning pawn endgame.

Round 3: Tan v Quinlan Vasey (1029)
Result: 1-0
Summary: Quinlan is a likable young lad but it is a mistake to underestimate him. His chess skills have made huge progress and I estimate his true rating to be well above 1400. He made me fight for the initiative but I managed to push his pieces back. His Queen fell after a tactical oversight and the game was pretty much lost from there on. This game was played out to checkmate.

Round 4: Argo Kuru (1716) v Tan
Result: 1-0 (forfeit)
Summary: I was hyped up about this game and I have made preparations for him. Kuru is a very strong player and I would have loved to match wits with him. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the tournament hall, I was informed by Bill Gletsos that he had forfeited. In fact, he only played one game (loss) and had forfeited the rest of his games. Bummer.

Round 5: Bye
Summary: Since it was a bye, I didn't turn up and besides, my final exam was the next day so I stayed at home to study.

Round 6: Dennis Hale (1591) v Tan
Result: 1-0
Summary: I should have believed in myself more. Out of the opening, Dennis made a move that I had not expected and my first thought was to play a more dangerous but highly tactical line (which would have put me on a slight advantage) but I turned down and from that point on, I was struggling. I tried to fight back but it was in vain. I resigned after allowing his Rook to take one of the pawns holding my position together. This was a great learning lesson from Dennis.

Round 7: Arthur Hyunh (1837) v Tan
Result: 1-0
Summary: I was feeling terrible on that day and was not in the mood to play chess. I wasn't making moves, I was shuffling pieces. Arthur won in a canter. It was a nice attack by Arthur. I should have pulled myself together for that game.

Round 8: Douglas Eyres (no rating) v Tan
Result: 0-1
Summary: I was initially wary of players with no ratings. However, after Douglas made a slip, his King was suddenly trapped in the center and unable to castle as both my Bishops sliced through his position making his defence difficult and it was only a matter of time before I invaded on another front and his defence unfortunately could not cope.

Round 9: Tan v Ray Kitchen (1456)
Result: 1-0
Summary: Ray made a slip in the move order of a Closed Ruy, losing a pawn in the process. He subsequently miscalculated and lost a minor piece and it was downhill for him from that point on unfortunately.

This result put me on 7 points (counting the bye and the forfeit) and currently 2nd on the board behind group leader Arthur Hyunh in my group. A few other players still have some postponed games to wrap up and it won't be till another 2 weeks before I know the final placings for my group.

The top 2 players for each group go on to play the other top 2s from the other groups.

My brother-in-law Steven has finished the top of his group with a few people currently vying for 2nd so there's a fairly good chance I would play him for the later stages if I retain my 2nd position. I played a couple of quick games with him this afternoon and the aftermath wasn't pretty (for me, that is). But it was plenty of fun, fun, fun!!!

On to not so good news, my studies have re-commenced and it's another final slog of another 7 weeks before I finally finish my course.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where's The Tactics?

Tactics can occur in the unlikeliest of places sometimes. Take for instance, the following game I played recently at Ryde-Eastwood League club. I only found out after going over my game with Fritz and Fritz instantly spewed out the tactical shot!

Rather than give you the position and give you a hint, what I intend to do separately here is to show a consecutive sequence of 5 moves that are being played out.

The idea is to mimic an actual game scenario - which it is. Here, no one is going to give you the exact position and say, "White to play and win" or "Black to mate in 3 moves" or something obvious.

No, I am not going to give you any hints at all other than the fact that this is DEFINITELY NOT EASY to see over the board.

So set yourself a time control of at least 20 minutes for the whole of this exercise. If possible, set up the actual board and pieces according to the first diagram shown. Examine each sequence of moves in turn (take your time), when you think you have seen enough and cannot find any good moves, go to the next position. Then think over the position again. The idea is NOT to go backwards. Once you have moved forward each position, do not go back. This is to provide impetus for you to analyse and mimic the conditions exactly similar to an actual game in progress.

Remember: Do NOT RUSH! Take as much time as you like for each position.

Without further ado, let's go onto the 1st position!

FEN position
4k2r/ppq2pp1/2r1p2p/3pPn2/Pb1P1B2/1P6/R3KPPP/1N1Q1R2 b k - 0 19

19. Rf1
Black to play and move
Examine this position carefully,
if you're happy that there are no tactics available here,
please move on to the next position

19. ... O-O
20. f3
Black to play and move
Examine this position carefully,
if you're happy that there are no tactics available here,
please move on to the next position.
Do NOT go back to the previous position.

20. ... Qb6
21. Be3
Black to play and move
Examine this position carefully,
if you're happy that there are no tactics available here,
please move on to the next position.
Do NOT go back to the previous position.

21. ... Rfc8
22. g4
Black to play and move
Examine this position carefully,
if you're happy that there are no tactics available here,
please move on to the next position.
Do NOT go back to the previous position.

22. ... Nxe3
23. Kxe3
Black to play and move
Examine this position carefully.

This is the last position.

Now, have you seen the tactic that was immersed in one of these positions?

One of the above diagrams contains a very deep tactic, one that is not easy to spot. If you cannot find it, don't fret. I didn't see it either.

To see the answer, please highlight between the brackets.

[The very deep tactic occurred on move 22. g4 for Black above - the 2nd last diagram. The amazing tactic goes as follows:
22... Qa6+!
23. Kf2
(Note: White is worse after ....
23.Qd3 Rc2+
24.Rxc2 Rxc2+
25.Bd2 Nxd4+
26.Ke3 (26.Kg3 Bxd2 27.Nxd2 Qd3 28.Rf2 Nxb3 and White loses a piece)
26.... Qb6
27.Kf2 (if 27. Qxd4 Bxd2+ 28. Nxd2 Rc3+ and the White Queen is lost)
27.... Bxd2
28.Nxd2 Nxb3+
29.Kg3 Nxd2 )
23... Rc2+! An amazing sacrifice, you say.... watch what follows now
24. Rxc2 Rxc2+!
25. Qxc2 Qxf1+!! An incredible temporary Queen sac - did you see it?
26. Kxf1 Nxe3+
27. Ke2 Nxc2
Now Black gets back all his material and is a piece up and winning. Incredible.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chessbase Review: French Defence

I've been meaning to review this DVD since the end of last year and I finally managed to get some time to do this.

I used to play the main line French then subsequently moved onto the Winawer/MacCutcheon variation (which I mentioned a long time ago that I was not going to learn to play but which I took up in the end). Since then, I've moved on from the French Defence.That means no more Milner Barry gambits, no more Alekhine-Chatard attacks for me although I'm still quite tempted to investigate the Burn and Guidmard variations of the French Defence.

So what I am getting to here? Well, this blog post is dedicated to Greg who mentions in this blogpost here.

I've been playing the French on and off for nearly half a year now. I am not an expert in the French Defence and I don't profess to be one. However, it has garnered me a few wins so far so I guess it's not that bad. Till today, I still have a soft spot for the French Defence although I have been investigating other opening defences to improve my opening repertoire in response to 1.e4.

The problem with playing the French Defence is that it's a rather misunderstood defence. Some people think that the French Defence is a tame defence. Well, they couldn't be more wrong. The French Defence is a strong counter-attacking defence.

In case you missed it, let me say that again, it is a counter-attacking defence.

While White is busy pushing pawns, Black hits back at the center (usually) with everything except the kitchen sink.

For a club player, I would seriously recommend Ari Ziegler's French Defence DVD (image on left) - Repertoire For Black if and only if you're interested in taking up the French as your main repertoire. Unlike some *other* Chessbase DVDs, this DVD is by and far, one of the best Fritz Trainers to have come out of Chessbase.

The DVD comprises some 7 hours (!!) of lessons. Frankly I am very surprised that Chessbase managed to squeeze that much information into 1 DVD. If Ziegler were to make a second DVD dealing with other variations of the French Defence, I would be the first in line to buy it.

What about the DVD itself?

Ziegler speaks with a rather slow, serious (some would say ponderous) and thoughtful voice. He is so unlike the cocktail-drinking-yawning-in-front-of-camera Jacob Aagaard, the somewhat placid but solid presenter Andrew Martin, the funny Daniel King, the somewhat-whiny voice of Rustam Khasimzhanov and the ever-gruffy-voice-and-nerdy Karsten Muller.

When he says something, he pauses, thinks, and gives you his thoughts on the position. He does not rush but he expects you to see tactical combinations quickly.

However, I do notice that Ziegler sometimes zips through the moves at record speed at later segments. That's because he presumes you've already watched the earlier clips and knows the variations so he doesn't bother wasting time .

He starts off with the Advance variation (you can read up ChessCafe's rather brief review of the DVD in this link), followed by the Tarrasch, the Classical and the Steinitz.

There are a few minor odd-looking moves in Ziegler's repertoire unfortunately (I leave it to you to figure it out) but I would say it is definitely more than good enough for the club player. He also gives short rift of the Exchange Variation and does not even delve into the Winawer nor the MacCutcheon. So if you're looking for insights into these lines, unfortunately, you would have to look somewhere else.

I have since expanded my repertoire of the French Defence and included a few new lines taken from materials from other sources.

This DVD would take at least a week to digest all the necessary information (especially for newcomers to the French Defence) and I would strongly urge to work at your own pace and not to hurry.

One big pity is that some of the annotations for the games are in Swedish. A real shame as Ziegler's annotations are very insightful.

As a note, some viewers may be left "hanging in the air" regarding a particular reference to a player. In one of his video segments, Ziegler mentions of a player who "knows the French from every angle". He is not referring to Uhlmann or Korchnoi but the Swedish CC Grandmaster Rune Holmberg. You are not likely to find his games in normal databases but you can find it by looking up CC chess databases. I strongly urge you to find his games and go through them if you're interested.

After you have digested the DVD, what next, you say? I would say, read up more on the French Defence. Any books by John Watson regarding the French is usually good.

I know what some people are thinking. Who plays the French Defense these days? It has virtually disappeared from super-GM play. Well, the beauty of the French Defence is that there are still many unexplored lines.

If you want to know more, there is no shortage of great players on the Black side of the French. They include Victor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Mikhail Gurevich, Nigel Short, Alexander Morozevich and Evgeny Bareev.

And now for something unrelated.....

For the last note of the day, speaking of a trip back to the past...... here's a very nice blast from the past.

Who was undoubtedly acknowledged as the greatest in the chess world?

One that even Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand saw fit to humble themselves and acknowledged; together with other famous grandmasters as shown in the signatures in the picture on the right?

David Bellows, that's who.

I know what you're thinking,

"Who On Earth Is David Bellows?!!" *wink*