Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Here's Wishing One And All A Very Happy And Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Whatever Happened To My 4 Days?

The Australian Open is coming!!

Unfortunately, I would be working and thus unable to participate. However, I am tempted to pop in on Manly during one of the weekends to have a look.

The number of entries has swelled to nearly 50 for the Open Division and 40 for the U1600 section.

I wish everyone participating in the Open the best of luck and I wish the organisers as well for a good tournament!

Onto personal things, okay, my wife was away for 4 days and today she would be back. So let's see what I did during my 4 days.

1. Saturday - dropped my wife off at the airport. Went to work, ate dinner, watched Mythbusters (*cough cough*) and Iron Chef.
2. Sunday - housework, gardening, doing laundry, folding clothes, went for dinner with my aunt, uncle, Steven, cousin and family.
3. Monday - Went to the gym early in the morning, went to work..... errrrr.... spent 5 minutes on FICS (got beaten - actually got disconnected - internet connection keeps breaking up), slept early.
4. This morning - Went to work early so that I can go through one WC's annotated games (before work starts). Come evening, I'll have to pick my wife up later from the airport.

How much chess study did I get in during these 4 days?


I managed to learn a main tabiya during those 4 days. Unfortunately, that main tabiya only goes up till move 7 but I've finally understood why certain moves have to be played this way and why alternative moves are not so good.

Due to unforseen circumstances, I'll be working come this Saturday and Sunday and again on New Year's Day. Hopefully, things are quiet work-wise because I would really like to get cracking on some serious chess study.

Btw, Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games has been republished in algebraic edition. I'll have to try to get the book one of these days (as soon as I'm done going through another WC games collection book) and go through it for my own benefit and learning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

For Greg: Daniel King's Powerplay 8 Coming Soon

This blog post is for Greg of Greg's Chess Progress.

I know he is an avid fan of Daniel King's Powerplay DVD series so here's something I heard from the grapevine.

A little birdie told me that Daniel King is releasing his Powerplay 8 : Knights and Bishops very soon and it would be based on how to effectively use Bishops and Knights (well, duh *grin*).


The DVD would be out within the month.

The synopsis reads as follows:

"When we are starting out in chess we are told that knights and bishops both have a value of three points, but it is quite clear that in some positions a bishop is clearly superior to a knight - and vice versa.

After watching this 8th Power Play DVD you’ll have a better idea of how to play positions with knights and bishops – what to look for, what to avoid, and how to place your pawns. Throughout the DVD, specially selected positions will enable you to test your understanding of the subject."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homework Troubles

There's just no getting around it.

If I want to improve my chess, I have to do my homework - the hard yards, so to speak.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done.

When I first started playing competitively this year, I'd realised there are severe gaps and defects in my chess knowledge and skills. These mistakes are very costly and they often have a detrimental effect on my play and I desperately need to fix them if I'm ever to have a hope of improving my play to a decent level.

While I'm fortunate to have a job in the midst of this economic climate, unfortunately, the job entails me having to work weekends and on public holidays at times.

I've always believed that it is possible for anyone to reach FIDE Master (FM) level if they devote sufficient time and resources for chess study and practice.

This is where I fall short.

I've a study plan but circumstances have forced me to make me divert from it. That's because I get side-tracked by something more important when I'm at home.

In addition, the nature of my work requires a high level of concentration throughout the day (I work as an analyst in the security industry) and it's often and not surprising that by the time the end of the day comes, my brain just refuses to accept any new information thrown at it.

Take last night as an instance in point. I tried to feed my brain some chess annotations from one of Anand's early games but it lifted its hand to say,"Enough! No more." and proceeded to spit the information right back at me. It's like trying to feed a videotape into a VCR only to have the VCR eject out the tape constantly. Frustrating.

Does this mean that I need time to rest? Yes.

I know I need to rest but I can't possibly have that every night. Coffee works for like 10 minutes for me, after which, the Sandman (inset) starts to blow dust in my eyes and my concentration falls apart.

One way I found which seemed to help was to go for an early gym session in the morning (I've been heading to the gym 3 times a week at least and trying to swim once a week) to boost my energy levels. I found that it has helped somewhat because come the end of my work day, I find that I still have at least a good half an hour of brainpower energy left.

I barely touched the telly these days although last night, I stayed up to watch a documentary on the origins of the Vietnam war protest in America. I rarely watch prime-time television programmes (save for the occasional CSI episode on Mondays) although I do watch quite a bit of BBC and SBS documentaries.

On weekdays, I do Sudoku in the morning, the Crosswords during lunch and try to fit in some chess homework at night. I've been contemplating giving up the Sudoku and the Crosswords but it's hard to kick the habit and these puzzles offer my brain something else think on besides say, finding a new variation in the Sicilian: Canal-Sokolsky (Rossolimo) Attack.

It's a constant daily struggle I admit but just because it's hard doesn't mean I give it up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ivanchuk Lives On Planet Ivanchuk

As Anand so aptly remarked about his fellow friend Ivanchuk,"He lives on Planet Ivanchuk."

"Chucky" has been known for strange behaviours - like sitting on Kasparov's dinner chair in Linares because he wants to “absorb Kasparov’s spirit” or howling at the moon at midnight because of a loss or ordering a bowl of mushroom soup so he can beat Kasparov ("champignon" sounds like "champion" in Russian and funnily enough Ivanchuk did beat Kasparov afterwards).

Now FIDE could potentially slap top Ukranian player Vasily Ivanchuk with a 2 year ban for refusing to take a piss at the Dresden Olympiad.

Unfortunately, the fallout of this fracas only serves to hurt chess regardless of the outcome.

If Ivanchuk is given a ban, it would most certainly have serious repercussions on the chess world.

If Ivanchuk is given a slap on the wrist, FIDE would be seen as weak and the pipe dream of getting chess as an Olympic sport would go down the gurgler (not that many chess players would mind).

Anand said it best when he was drug tested in Bonn.

“It is completely pointless, of course.”

“I mean, in cycling, if you could add a little piece of metal (to your bike) that could boost your performance by 20 times, they would not test you for drugs. They would make sure that the bike did not have that piece of metal."

“In chess, when you have computers and use them for preparation, taking time off to figure out what medicines to take is itself ridiculous. I understand that in order to be an Olympic sport, you have this (testing).”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reflections And Quiet Times

(above inset: Kramnik reflects and surveys the damage on the big screen - shown on right - moments away from resigning his first game in Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in Bonn, Germany this year)

I have a 2 month break from chess this time between now and the start of the club competition in February.

During this time, I will also be going away for 3 weeks to spend with my parents overseas (looking very much forward to it).

I've also realised how badly out of shape I was during this lull period. I promptly lost a lot of games on FICS. I'm quite surprised how 3 weeks of inactivity has caused 'rustiness' to set in.

Onto other news, Weng has signed up his son, Dylan for the Australian Open and being one of the first 100 people to sign up, received a free Chess Informant. Dylan was delighted.

The Ryde-Eastwood dinner was a blast and many thanks to Tom Powers for arranging and organising it.

We also had David French moving back to Sydney and a couple of young players joined as well so that means Ryde-Eastwood is starting to fill the numbers again.

In the meantime, I've not been doing anything chess-related lately. My wife is going away for a couple of days to tend to a friend so that leaves me with 4 days to do some things. She has already warned me not to play chess 24 hours a day during that time. Ooops.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Ratings

I turned up at the Ryde-Eastwood chess club on Wednesday night and had a brief chat with Shane Burgess who duly informed me that the December ACF ratings were out and he was surprised I haven't blogged about it yet. Well, .... errr.... that's because I normally don't put a lot of emphasis on ratings nor do I monitor it closely.

So Shane, this post is for you. ;-)

The last 2 tournaments I took part in have been included.

They were the Ford Memorial Centenary Tournament and the Ryde Eastwood Club Championship Finals.

My rating bumped a bit by 40 points moving from 1500 to 1540.

But that's nothing compared with Shane. Shane's progress was stunning. He shot up 60 points to 1520 (very nice, Shane and stop complaining that you'll have to face tougher opponents next time *wink*).

My brother-in-law Steven's rating rose from 1789 to 1797. Arthur Hunyh rose from 1835 to 1917 (wow!) and Joshua Christiansen remained stable at 1662.

My friend Weng's son, Dylan, is the 2nd most improved player of all of NSW during this 3 month period, getting on the ratings list with an entrant score of 538. Congratulations to Weng and Dylan!

Young Anton Smirnov shot up another 56 points to 1440, showing that he is making good progress.

I've also noticed Anton's analytical skill has improved by leaps and bounds. He is starting to analyse a lot better and his thinking has accelerated.

Yes, I usually lose to him these days in speed chess because my brain malfunctions at higher processing speeds. It like trying to get a Pentium II processor to work at the speed of an Intel i7.

It is just not going to happen. :D

Next Wednesday is the annual Christmas dinner for the Ryde-Eastwood chess club. I've already put my name down with Les and intend to bring my camera along to take some pictures of the event.

Oh, I am most definitely looking forward to it. Yumz...... :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Learning From Garry Kasparov

It's true. Garry Kasparov can never play poker. His face contorts into a horrible pained look at the moment of trouble.

So what can we learn from Kasparov?

In an interview in, when questioned on the similarities between managers and chessplayers, Kasparov answered,"Among successful managers and winning chessplayers we can talk about skill sets: qualities like calculation, competitive drive, work ethic, and imagination. It goes beyond skills and talent, however, and into the realm of combining, synthesizing, these things. Both groups are also required to see the big picture, to readily acknowledge strengths and weaknesses, and to learn quickly from mistakes."

In other words, Garry comes back stronger than ever by constantly working on his chess and on his mistakes. He is a famed workaholic who loses rarely because he has tremendous drive and determination and more importantly, is ever willing to improve on his chess. It is this potent combination of characteristics that makes him succeed at the highest level.

On his playing style, Kasparov says,"I am an adherent of the analysis trend to which Botvinnik belongs. It was from him that I actually learnt to analyse while playing chess, to search for fresh ideas, to constantly work at perfecting them.

This is a scientific approach, based on profound analysis of the heritage of the past, on the search for new opening variations and methods of play in the middlegame, it is based on working out strategical plans that are new in essence."

When asked on how he handles stress, he replied:

"Emotion is a critical element of decision-making, not a sin always to be avoided. As with anything it is harmful in excess. You learn to focus it and control it the best you can. I'm a very emotional person in and out of chess so this was always a challenge for me. When I sat down at the board against my great rival, Anatoly Karpov, it was a special occasion. I knew it, he knew it, and we both knew the chess world was paying special attention. We had such a long and bitter history that it was impossible not to bring it to the board with us every time we played."

"On some occasions this anxiety created negative emotions like doubt. More often it generated greater creative tension, greater supplies of nervous tension, which is a chess player's lifeblood."

"Usually when you are under stress there is a good reason for it. Learning not to get anxious about things beyond your control is a separate issue. So don't fight stress, use it! Channel that nervous energy into solving the problems. Sitting around worrying isn't going to achieve anything and the loss of time will often make the problem worse. Even in the worst case, mistakes of action teach you much more than inaction."

(Sources: Credit Suisse e-magazine, : How Life Imitates Chess, Modern Chess Instructor)