Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congratulations To Vishy Anand

After losing Game 10 to Vladimir Kramnik, Anand today, playing with White uncorked 1. e4 and Kramnik replied with the Sicilian Najdorf.

Anand did well to manage the complications with ease. After swapping queens on move 22, Kramnik had a slightly inferior position and reluctantly offered a draw 2 moves later which Anand accepted.

Anand thus wins the match with a 6.5-4.5 score.

He now occupies a unique place among other chess champions. He is the only chess champion in history to win a title under knockout, match and tournament conditions. A remarkable achievement.

Congratulations and well done, Viswanathan Anand!

Sidenote: I've been a tad busy on my side as my in-laws are here so I've been taking an extended leave of absence from chess. Unfortunately, I lost in the Ford Memorial Round 7 to Horst Bleicher (1472) and to Arthur Huynh (1835) in the Ryde-Eastwood Club Championship finals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WCC At The Halfway Point: Getting Painful To Watch

I hate to be Vladimir Kramnik right now. Something has seriously gone very wrong with his match preparation.

Kramnik was outcalculated in Game 3.

In Game 5, he missed the tactical trap with Ne3 (see above picture). The sudden realisation that he was lost and had fallen into Anand's trap was a huge blow.

And now in Game 6, instead of playing for a draw to recover, Kramnik decided not to go for the defensive to consolidate. And the worst possible thing happened. He got ground down by Anand in a positional skirmish that would normally have suited him to a tee.

Anand now has a 3 point lead at the halfway mark. If this was a 24 game match, this result would still have allowed Kramnik sufficient time to recover but in a 12 game match, it's very hard.

He's getting outfought, outthought and outprepared at the board.

Tomorrow is a rest day and Kramnik needs to recover from this serious setback quickly. Never in my wildest dreams would I expect to see this result. In case anyone gets any wrong ideas, I am actually rooting for Anand and hopes he wins this.

Kramnik would need to turn himself around psychologically and go all out now in the next 6 games if he wants to harbour any hopes of regaining the crown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Rest For The Weary

The last week, I've been concentrating specifically on endgames and endgame technique. I've no time to rest now.

The final round of the Ryde-Eastwood club championship is upon me. I have to postpone the game between Steven and I this Wednesday and we would need to reschedule for this postponed game. This is due to the Ford Memorial Round 7 which coincides on this Wednesday as well.

About the Ryde Eastwood club championship, 6 players including myself will play a single game each for a period of 5 weeks to see. The participants are (ACF ratings stated):

Arthur Huynh (1835)
Bill Gletsos (1829)
My brother-in-law, Steven (1789)
Lorenzo Escalante (1716)
Joshua Christiansen (1662)
Me! (1500)

As for the Ford Memorial, this week's game got moved to Wednesday. My opponent is Horst Bleicher (FIDE rated 1832, ACF rated 1472). He has so far beat Henning Muller (1845), Tom Tomas (1629), Greg Matthews (1248) - definitely a player not to be underestimated.

A total of 62 players took part but it appears that 4 players have since dropped out. I'm placed #29 (smacked right in the middle!) on the list so anything above 4.5/9 is considered a good result.

Last week, Vladimir Smirnov taught me a little idea which is ingrained in my memory now. I would like to thank him for his generous input and advice. He has been great in helping lesser rated players and the local Sydney chess scene would be a lot poorer without his help.

I leave you now with a nice little puzzle from Volokitin's Perfect Your Chess.

White to play and win.

Answer as usual can be found by highlighting between the brackets

[1. Rd5!!

If 1... Qxd5 2. Qe8+ Kh7 3. Nf6+ gxf6 4. Qxf7#

If 1... exd5 2. Qxf5 naturally

If 1... Qf4 2. Rxa5 and Black is a whole piece down.

This move actually forced an instant resignation by Black.]

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nosce te ipsum

The phrase "Nosce te ipsum", which in Latin, is translated generally as the common phrase "Know Thyself".

One of the hardest things to do as a chess player is the ability to recognise, acknowledge your own faults and weaknesses and to work hard to remove them.

All chess players suffer from one deficient aspect of the royal game one way or another, be it, a 1200 player or an elite 2700 grandmaster.

Looking back at the 20 odd games I've played over the board, I've identified 3 main weaknesses.

1. Weak in opening
2. Weak in positional play
3. Weak in time management

1. Weak in opening

I am very unsettled in openings. I tend to lose my way quickly when players diverge from the main line. Concepts and ideas are far more important than rote move orders. I need to address this seriously but I can only gather that mastering an opening is going to take time. Two-thirds of my losses have come from poor opening play.

2. Weak in positional play/seeing positional ideas

Knowing where to put the pieces -so to speak- so as to maximise their effectiveness. I can see tactical shots but in order to know where to put my pieces, I need to be more conversant in tactics and in the art of defence and strategy. I am planning to scour my local library for such books and doing more tactical puzzles. I have also been leafing through GM games.

3. Weak in time management

Like many before me, I have a tendency to make moves too quickly. Dan Heisman, writer of ChessCafe's Novice Nook articles once said,"Never make a bad move quickly". This summarises my Achilles Heel.

I am now trying to make a mental reminder to myself during a game to pace myself against my clock. I've been doing this at home with my own digital clock albeit with some success. This has a rather calming effect on me and I find that I think far better and tend to choose better moves if I spend more than a minute of thought. This also highlights to me that my thought process is not as efficient as it is. Quite a number of times, a better move seems to prop up after I finished searching through my primary branch (ala Kotov's method) in my head.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ford Memorial Round 8

Last night was a scheduled postponed games night but I was informed by Norman Greenwood that Frank Low is having scheduling problems so we agreed to move forward our round 8 game to last night.

Frank sacrificed a minor piece to open up my uncastled king and placed my position under severe pressure - the opening was a Pirc Defence: Classical.

I subsequently made 2 errors which allowed him to retake the position but I subsequently regrouped after he made a unnoticeable mistake (he was under severe time pressure by then) which allowed me to take home the point. I was pretty sure I was lost at one particular point in the game and after letting Fritz do its handiwork, sure enough, Fritz pointed out a mate in 7 at that location.

I was lucky.

Because of the schedule, I 've yet to play round 7 but have played round 8. So far, I'm now at +4-3=0.

Karel P Hursky (2013)
Sarkis Nalbandian (1734)
Gordon Miller (1588)

Robert Laurie (U/R)
Owen Roach (1458)
Anthony Pickering (1769)
Frank Low (1575)

I definitely need to improve. My opening theory sucks. I can no longer get by just remembering the first 4 moves in any opening. I'll never survive in this way. My remaining 2 games will be as White.

Next week is the start of the final round of the Ryde Eastwood Club Championship and it clashes with my Ford Memorial game so it looks like I may have to postpone my Ford game, which is a bit unfortunate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Tactical Puzzle

Have a look at this position.

Black has come under enormous pressure and played Nf7 in desperation.

Find White's best move.

White to play and win.

Answers can be found by highlighting the brackets.

Answer [
1. Rxh8+ Nxh8
2. Qxd6!! Qxd6
3. e7 and

Black must have give up the Black Queen else
4. e8=Q+ loses either the Knight after
5. Qxh8 or the Black Queen as
4.... Kc7 loses to the Knight fork with b5+]

And So It Begins

After many months of waiting, the Anand - Kramnik World Chess Championship 2008 has finally arrived.

For a period between October 14 to October 30, these 2 heavyweights will duke it out.

Thankfully, we don't expect to see any Toiletgate scandals anytime soon given the good repute of both participants.

Anand's Seconds:

Peter Heine Nielsen (Denmark), Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan), Radoslav Wojtaszek (Poland) and Surya Shekhar Ganguly (India).

Kramnik's Seconds:

Peter Leko (Hungary), Sergey Rublevskyi (Russia) and Laurent Fressinet (France).

Their choices of seconds are a bit surprising.

Kramnik has Leko (a previous challenger) and a known 1. e4 player while Anand has Kasimdzhanov, a known proponent of the Petroff and of the Anti-Moscow Gambit in the Semi-Slav.

So who would win it?

My heart goes to Anand (for his attacking flair) but my brain tells me Kramnik (due to his match experience).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Simple Tactical Puzzle

I recently had a very wild game in the French Winawer (I was White).

I reached this position as shown (see picture on left).

White is clearly winning.

Black's Rook is there for the taking and taking the Rook with check is always a plus.

The idea behind this small exercise is to be able to see moves whilst moving the pieces in your head.

Now calculate the lines after 1. Bxf8+

Question 1: Can you see the mating position after 1.... Kxf8?

Answer can be found by highlighting between the brackets.

[ 1.... Kxf8 2. Qe7+ Kg8 3. Rd8 and mate follows]

We now know that Black should take back with the Queen.

So 1. Bxf8+ Qxf8 is pretty much forced.

For your convenience, I've attached the 2nd picture for this line. But you can still work it out in your head should you choose not to use the 2nd picture.

Question 2: Find a way to win/finish off Black.

Answer :
[2. Rxc6!

If 2... bxc6 3. Rd7+ Kg8 4. Rd8 wins the Black Queen. Note that 3... Kh6 is not possible because of Qg5#

If 2....Nf6
3. Rxf6! Qxf6
4. Rd7+ nabs the Black Queen

If Black makes any other move,
3. Rcd6 and Black is still going to lose the Black Queen because Rd7+ is coming

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ford Memorial Update Round 6

Ever felt like a complete dufus?

I just did. Losing tonight to Sarkis Nabaldian (1734) sure did the trick on Round 6 of the Ford Memorial, and does little for my self-confidence.

Apologies to Vladimir and Steven who offered to have a look at my game but I declined as I didn't feel like having any post game analysis. Game was effectively over after 2 bad moves and knowing exactly where you went wrong was even more terrible.

Current score: +3-3=0 with 3 games left to turn the tide. When I first started out, my aim was to get 5 points and right now, that means having to win 2 out of my last 3 games.

Funny, I was in a bad mood so I logged onto and proceeded to win 8 rapid games consecutively (hmm... a first for me... but it still didn't erase the self-recriminations from tonight's game).

There are times when you just want to throw your hands up in the arm and ask yourself why you would want to subject yourself to such mental torture. This is one of them.

I guess all chess players have to go through disappointments in order to improve but the journey is long, hard, laden with rocks and success only comes to those who want it bad enough.

I'll probably skip tomorrow's lightning competition at Ryde-Eastwood. I find that playing lightning and blitz chess is actually pulling my game down in the sense that I do not spend enough time working out the variations or analysing the position properly. The net effect is that it's making me make hasty moves. I didn't use to do that and I need to 'unlearn' blitz thinking and refrain from making a move too quickly. I reckon if I slow down, I would probably play a lot better.

Monday, October 6, 2008

You Don't Have Much Skill

"You Don't Have Much Skill" - came the comment from my opponent on after I beat him rather soundly.

Normally I don't really bother with post-match comments but this comment struck me, not because it was a snide remark but more because it struck me how true it was.

While not all of us can be a Kasparov and make good moves on a consistent basis, an average chess patzer like myself should know how to put the pieces properly. Most of the time, I find that my failure lies in middlegame play and finding the right square for my pieces so as to mobilise my pieces for maximum effectiveness.

The most frustrating thing was that I just do not know how to do it in an optimal fashion and on a regular basis. There have been enough books on middlegame play but it seems that the art of positional play is still beyond my grasp.

I shudder whenever I do a post-mortem in my games because it seems that I make moves perfunctorily. In chess, this is tantamount to suicide. All those rules like "Mobilise your worst piece", "Make active moves", "Create weaknesses" seem to go out the window when I am at the chess board.

Take a look at the following position from one of my own games:

Note that there is no "correct" answer here. What should I do in this position?

The correct idea is to play Nd8 with the idea of Nc6->Nd8->Ne6, putting the Knight on a more active square.

In the actual game, my Knight stood at c6 for a *very long* time and in the end got traded into a losing endgame position. Pathetic.

I can spot tactical shots fairly quickly but it seems that positional play is my main weakness and until I eradicate this weakness from my play, it will continue to dog me.

I've lined up a couple of chess materials and am planning on reading Nunn's Understand Chess Move By Move all over again just to understand and grasp the basics of chess playing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Missed Chance To Meet Tibor Karolyi

IM Tibor Karolyi was at the chess club at Manly-Warringah on Sep 29 2008.

I only found out about it too late (yesterday) . Bummer.

Kind of a shame really because I have his book Kasparov's Fighting Chess 1993-1998 and just wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his book (I'm still looking through his immense annotations even though I bought the book nearly half a year ago). Tibor formerly was Peter Leko's trainer and
is here in Sydney under the gracious invite of Brett Tindall and the Sydney Academy of Chess.

Onto other things, in the Ford Memorial at North Sydney, I am now at +3-2=0 with another 4 games to go. My target was to get +5 in this competition and right now, I'm still on course. My brother-in-law Steven is currently on +3-1=1.

In the Bobby Fischer Cup at Ryde-Eastwood, tonight is the last(?) round for me with a +11-6=3 score (a most absymal performance by my standards). My losses going to Ted Wong, Bill Gletsos, Lorenzo Escalantes, Joweynn Lua, my brother-in-law Steven and finally Theodore last week (where I hung a Rook).

Onto better news, my parents-in-laws are coming for a visit in a couple of weeks' time and it'll be great to see them again as it was my father-in-law who introduced me to chess.