Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Lone Path To Victory

This is it. Your moment of glory. As your eyes are transfixed on the board before you, your mind is on overload. It's been busy calculating variation after variation. But you know the truth.

Only one road leads to victory.

Every other road leads to a worse position and potential disaster. If you could load up Fritz right now, Fritz will spew out things like this:

Only 1 variation leads to your survival and increase your chances of pressing home your advantage.

And herein lies the key to better chess improvement.

The ability to calculate accurately and more crucially, the ability to spot the correct continuation.

This is why some players tend to resort to safer lines. Because they know that a wrong move would not decrease their advantage. Wasted tempi would not be immediately punished.

However, if you truly want to test your mettle, do not be afraid to open the position up and resort to complications if you know you are tactically better than your opponent. For any player below 2000, keep throwing your opponents more and more complex positions to solve. Because no one can take this sort of punishment move after move without making a mistake (this naturally applies both ways).

Of course this also means that you also are more likely to be standing at a razor's edge and you need to know your stuff inside out. In other words, you need to understand chess better than your opponents.

And remember, close positions will never stay close forever. So learn to play open and semi-open positions and work on your tactical ability.

Grandmasters are experts at this. They know how to seek out the best move even if it's the only single move to win. And if you give them time, they will find it 9 times out of 10.

Australian Youth

In the World Youth Championships concluded recently, Bobby Cheng came in first in the U12 category.

My best of congratulations to him and his family!

There was a sudden and marked improvement in his results over the course of the year. This was the time where he was reported to have become very serious in chess and wanting to attain the Grandmaster title. It has now evidently paid rewards and I wish him the very best in his quest.

Anton Smirnov came in 4th because of tie breaks although he finished level on points with the runners up in the U8 category. Well done and congratulations to him and his dad, Vladimir.

And a well done and thank you to the rest of the Aussie team for a tremendous effort in Turkey.

Special thanks go to Alana Chibnall for providing constant updates on the Australian team's progress in Turkey (in spite of having to prepare for her competition).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Like Buying From The Home Shopping Network....

We've all heard the talk before.

How this new chess book will solve all your woes. Will increase your rating by a gazillion Elo points. That your opponents would be floundering with your new found secret "opening"/"trick"/"tactic". The one that would make you reach the rank of a titled master in less than a year. And unlike the other 1,000,000 chess books before it, this one will be different. It will be interesting, does not require you to memorise lines etc. etc.

Have you heard all of this before?

Yes, and in case you're wondering why this sound familiar. That because you probably already have.

It's no different than the exercise machines that you see being touted on the Home Shopping Network. How this revolutionary exercise machine will shape your butt, trim your waistline, stores easily into your cupboard and requires you only 5 min of your time.

The real world is unfortunately not like that.

You cannot hope to achieve anything without determination and willpower. If you cannot invest the time to train and upgrade your chess knowledge, no chess book will help you if you cannot lift your own game. Acquiring new chess knowledge is never easy. Most importantly, it takes a LOT of time. A lot of blood and tears and sheer determination.

In other words, it boils down to this:

How badly do you want it?

The good thing about trying to improve your chess skill is that it basically involves the same steps and skills that you use when you were a student.

You spend time on it, learning the necessary knowledge, acquiring new concepts, learning to apply them and gathering the experience learned from application of this knowledge. This sort of training does not occur overnight. It takes an enormous amount of time and practise to get it right.

This is the same with chess.

In education, a poor teacher will not make you improve and likewise poor chess material will not make you better. In fact, it teaches you bad skills that you'll find harder to rid yourself of later on.

On the other hand, good chess books and good chess material or a good chess coach will guide you towards your aim quicker.

Sure, there have been good chess books being published but there's also been some real stinkers as well. And this also applies to other chess media. There's also been good chess DVDs and some obviously "hacked up in a day" chess presentation DVDs.

The trick is to sort the wheat from the chaff and to apply these materials that you have gathered in a consistent manner. Only then will you improve.

There's no shortcut in life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Carlsen Tsk Tsk

Looks like the #1 on live rating list still has a few things to learn when it comes to understanding blitz chess rules and common board courtesy. This is what happened in last night's game v Gashimov in the World Blitz Championships currently held in Moscow.

Moving your Queen twice?

And in the following game v Kosteniuk (bottom right screen) for the following video:

No handshake after losing to Kostenuik? Tsk tsk.

Friday, November 13, 2009

World Youth Chess Championship Rd 1

Round 1 results:

U-8 Open:
Smirnov Anton (1853) (AUS) 1 - 0 Kesgin Halit Kaan (0) (TUR)

U-10 Open:
Gray Callum James (0) (AUS) 0 - 1 Shurunov Andrei (1887) (RUS)

U-12 Open:
Akhmetov Ayan (KAZ) 1 - 0 Koh Cedric (0) (AUS)
Terzi Alexei (BLR) 0 - 1 Cheng Bobby (2202) (AUS)

U-14 Open:
Yuan Yi (2097) (AUS) 1 - 0 Karlsson Mikael Johann (1703) (ISL)

U-16 Open:
Tan Justin (2011) (AUS) 0 - 1 Kurayan Ruslan (2306) (UKR)

U-18 Open:
Schon Eugene (2171) (AUS) ½ - ½ IM Krejci Jan (2458) (CZE)

U-12 Girls:
Papathanasiou Elisavet (GRE) 1 - 0 Koh Clarise (0) (AUS)
Drogovoz Maria (RUS) (0) 1 - 0 Pretorius Jana (0) (AUS)

U-14 Girls:
Ataoglu Buse (0) (TUR) 0 - 1 Guo Emma (1910) (AUS)
Baekelant Eva (1966) (BEL) 1 - 0 Simmonds Leteisha (1624) (AUS)

U-16 Girls:

Webb-Liddle Miranda (0) (AUS) + - - Flores Nancy (1927) (ARG) (forfeit?)

U-18 Girls:
Richard Emma (2135) (FRA) 1 - 0 Chibnall Alana (0) (AUS)
Oliver Tamzin (1777) (AUS) 0 - 1 WFM Brunello Marina (2158) (ITA)

Round 2 is scheduled to begin today and these are the pairings:

U-8 Open:
Ibik Halit Yavuz (0) (TUR) v Smirnov Anton (1853) (AUS)

U-10 Open:
Temur Igonin (0) (UZB) v Gray Callum James (0) (AUS)

U-12 Open:
Koh Cedric (0) (AUS) v Keleptrishvili Irakli (1751) (GEO)
Cheng Bobby (2202) (AUS) v Kessler Luca (1992) (AUT)

U-14 Open:
Studer Noel (1974) (SUI) v Yuan Yi (2097) (AUS)

U-16 Open:
Sevciuc Vladlen (0) (MDA) v Tan Justin (2011) (AUS)

U-18 Open:
Arslanov Shamil (2379) (RUS) v Schon Eugene (2171) (AUS)

U-12 Girls:
Koh Clarise (0) (AUS) v Al Dhaheri Shaikha (0) (UAE)
Pretorius Jana (0) (AUS) v Camilia Bt Johari (0) (MAS)

U-14 Girls:
Guo Emma (1910) (AUS) v Kuehnel Lena (1761) (GER)
Simmonds Leteisha (1624) (AUS) v Tuzi Bruna (0) (ALB)

U-16 Girls:
Webb-Liddle Miranda (0) (AUS) v WFM Hakimifard Ghazal (2124) (IRI)

U-18 Girls:
Chibnall Alana (0) (AUS) v Ibragimova Iroda (1917) (UZB)
Haug Marianne Wold (2005) (NOR) v Oliver Tamzin (1777) (AUS)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Fascination With Tal

Why are chess players so fascinated with the 8th World Champion, Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal?

He was, after all, only World Champion for a year before being defeated by Mikhail Botvinnik in the rematch and has never since then managed to reached the same heights ever again.

What is it about him that makes him so affable and well-liked?

Before Tal's appearance on the world stage, chess was considered by many to be methodical. Little did the world know that the young Latvian from Riga would soon set the world alight with his daring imaginative sacrifices and unbelievable attacking combinational skills.

In modern times, if he had been in good health, he would have been the equivalent of golf's Tiger Woods. Tal didn't just make chess interesting and fun agai
n, he strapped a rocket to chess and launched it to the skies and the whole world sat up and took notice.

Never has the world seen such daring play before where material was sometimes abandoned in order to launch a crushing attack on his enemy's king. His pieces moved like magic and his play defied common chess logic.

If you do not have the book, The Life And Games Of Mikhail Tal (Cadogan Books), I strongly encourage you to go and get it. In the book, Tal desc
ribes his life experiences (up till 1975) in a manner that makes you feel as if you're having a conversation with a long-lost friend over a glass of wine after a nice dinner. It is one of the best chess literature ever written.

Tal doesn't give you long variations and sub-variations in his game notes like some authors do. He adds simple notes to explain his ideas, his plans. More importantly, he talks to you like a
friend recounting his incredible journey.

Tal's play combined not only unrestrained imagination and incredible energy on the chess board but they typically entailed an enormous amount of risk. Tal would often stand precariously on the precipice of disaster and many a time, it would be his opponent who would capitulate first.

For example, in the Candidates tournament of Yugoslavia in 1959. Tal was playing Fischer. In that game, Fischer wrote down 22. Rae1 (the strongest move) before playing his move and pushed his scoresheet towards Tal to observe his reaction. Tal thought the better of it and knew Fischer was testing him. So Tal got up, walked around the board and proceeded to share a joke with someone. When he returned to the board with a smile, Fischer (who by then was obviously monitoring the whole scene) crossed out the move and played another move instead. In the end, Fischer lost. When Tal asked why he changed the move, Fischer replied,"Well, you laughed when I wrote it down!"

Tal was unfortunately afflicted with ill health. He had a diseased kidney and underwent 12 operations. But while such an ordeal would have crushed a lesser man, Tal continued to play chess at the highest levels irrespective of his health. His passion and love for the game was truly inextinguishable.

(Tal with his daughter)

This led to Leonid Stein to once comment,"You, Mishik, are stronger in spirit than all of us."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tal Memorial

(Fischer v Tal)

The Mikhail Tal Memorial this year is the one to look out for and is probably the most anticipated event. This Category XXI rated tournament has a star studded "cast" comprising 10 of the 13 highest rated players among them, Anand, Carlsen, Kramnik.

Live broadcasts with GM commentaries are available at Chessdom.

And to add the icing on the cake, the World Blitz Chess Championship 2009 will immediately start at the same venue after the conclusion of the Tal Memorial. Anatoly Karpov, current world blitz champion Leinier Dominguez Perez and a whole host of other players will join the rest of the players to bring the number of participants to 20.

Since its birth in 2006, the Tal Memorial has steadily rose to become one of the elite competitions to look forward to in the calendar. The number of top ranked players taking part this year has certainly added a great deal of prestige to the tournament. I for one, am happy that there is more chess at the elite level to watch.

On a personal note, I plan to head down to Chess Discount Sales (operated by Peter Parr) in town sometime either later this week or next week to pick up a Chessbase DVD (still haven't decided between getting Daniel King's PowerPlay 11 or a Chessbase Opening DVD instead). I really need to get my skills back up to speed. Currently, my OT blitz games are woeful to say the least. I keep getting myself into bad positions (picking the worst move) or making ridiculous moves (that I always regret 5 seconds after I played it). :)

World Youth Chess Championship 2009 Update:
Had a little chat with Vladimir Smirnov last night (Thanks for giving me a chance to play a few quick blitz games against you, Vlad. It was very much appreciated). Both him and Anton will be flying off this weekend. I wish them and the entire Australian contingent the best of luck.

Ryde-Eastwood Club Championship
I forgot to add that the Ryde-Eastwood Club Championship was still progressing last night. The last game to conclude was between Brenton Yam and Bill Gletsos. It was an interesting game. I thought that Brenton had the upper hand near the endgame but sadly he was unable to hold.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Australians In World Youth Chess Championship 2009

This year's World Youth Chess Championship 2009 will be held in Kemer-Antalya, Turkey between Nov 11th and Nov 23th.

Here's to the best of wishes for the team. The Australian contingent comprises:

U-8 Open
Smirnov Anton

U-10 Open
Gray Callum

U-12 Open
Koh Cedric
Cheng Bobby 2103

U-14 Open
Yuan Yi 2010

U-16 Open
Tan Justin 1885

U-18 Open
Schon Eugene 2186

U-12 Girls
Koh Clarise
Pretorius Jana

U-14 Girls
Guo Emma 1845
Simmonds Leteisha

U-16 Girls
Webb Liddle Miranda

U-18 Girls
Chibnall Alana
Oliver Tamzin 1782

GM Arutinian David

Personal acc (parents/journalists/delegation)
Eunice Koh
Tracy Gray
Frank Cheng
Qi-Fang Shen
Wendy Tan
Kerry Lyall
Jan Pretorius
Tania Simmonds
Jenni Oliver
Tony Oliver
Vladimir Smirnov
Gary Lane
GM Ketevan Arakhamia

They will be staying at the Limra Hotel (2nd pic)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting Inspiration

We've all been through it before.

We get ground to the ground and getting punished with defeat after defeat. Or we study the different aspects of chess (from tactics to strategy to endgames etc.) so hard that we grow weary of when our efforts are not rewarded.

You get the picture. You then start to wonder why you'd bother playing chess in the first place. :)

And it's times like these, that you need some inspiration to get you back on your feet.

So what are the things that you do to help overcome the moments where you verged on exiting the game completely, forever?

One of the things I do to pick myself up is to listen to this little blurb from the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer:

"In school, before he dropped out, Bobby studied chess books while his teachers taught other things. When they told him to put his books away, or took them away, he studied in his head.

When a science report came back to him once with the words "not satisfactory" written across the top, he wrote under it just as big, "Tough."

He was 14 and had already beaten the STRONGEST adult players in the country to become the youngest U.S. champion....

(photo taken from Wikipedia)