Thursday, March 25, 2010

Visiting The Bay Area

Last week, I proceeded to continue work on another 1.e4 Black opening repertoire and using Chess Position Trainer to familiarise myself with move orders. It's something that I've been meaning to do for a long time but just had not have the time to do it.

I'll be heading off to the USA over the next few weeks to visit friends and taking a much needed break. I'll be mostly in San Francisco from next week onwards and onto Atlanta with short stopovers in New Zealand.

I am quite tempted to pop into the Mechanics' Institute at San Francisco but it will have to depend on whether my wife feels up to it. She's about 75% recovered from her ankle surgery.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chessbase Fritz Trainer: Powerplay 11 - Defence Review

GM Daniel King is well known among Chessbase with his Powerplay series and his commentaries on

Today, we'll be looking into one of his Fritz Trainers DVD. Powerplay 11 - Defence.

This DVD is a "bare-bones" DVD comprising of just the DVD and the cover. This suits me just fine since it's the material on the DVD inside that matters not the fancy presentation or leaflets etc. accompanying the DVD.

As is common with his other Powerplay DVDs, the material in this case concentrates on one aspect of chess - here, it is on the art of defence.

A total of 39 short video clips make up this DVD. Some of these video clips last between 2 min and 25 min. In all, the DVD has about a total of 2.5 hr video running time (English only).

Please note that GM King also presents in German as well so German viewers are also able to follow his lectures.

The DVD is presented into King's usual format, the test positions are given during his introduction. A total of 12 Test positions are covered. His main material coverage is as follows:

Premature castling
Highlighted games: Marcelin - Shirazi

Delayed castling
Highlighted games: Topalov - Ponomariov, Sveshnikov - Kasparov

The advance of the f-pawn
Highlighted games: Bareev - Filippov, Kozlov - Yemelin, Karpov - Kortschnoj

The h4/g4 advance
Highlighted games: Spassky - Petrosian, Kapnisis - Skembris, Morozevich - Ivanchuk

Passive Play
Highlighted games: Lamorelle - Fressinet

The weakness of the back rank
Highlighted games: Arlandi - Nunn, Kasparov - Karpov

The process of elimination
Highlighted games: Kramnik - Anand, Illescas - Andersson

In his introduction, King explains that defence is not a particularly positive title because "no one likes to defend in chess." Actually, this title is not about discussing tricky defence techniques but more about how to identify situations where one can fall into a defensive or passive position. But he thinks that the title,"How to avoid going on the defensive" is probably too much of a mouthful to put as a title. I would agree. :)

As I mentioned earlier, in this DVD, he gives his customary test positions in the introduction. In these test positions, King wants the viewer to setup the board and engage in some hard thinking on what candidate moves to play and to not analyse from the computer screen. Or as King says, "to let the ideas flow through your fingers".

With respect to the test positions, the maximum benefit from this DVD IMHO is to analyse the test positions, calculate the variations/responses and after going through the main chapters, to go back to these test positions and see if you might want to change any of the positions/moves before going to the test solutions.

The test positions range from positional play to strategic play, from complex middlegame positions to endgame play. In all, 10 test positions are highlighted but one game will be discussed in 3 separate videos. Calculation is of the utmost importance here. The viewer is definitely going to get a good brain workout. Oh and don't forget to close the notation window (so you don't inadvertently look at the answers).

As always, King's presentation is at a comfortable level and is clear in his explanations. He does not rush things and takes the time to explain the moves and possible side moves. He also makes very good use of highlights and arrows to explain his ideas.

King also highlights important parts of a good defence - which involves a good amount of careful calculation, the potential of creating counter-attacking possibilities, when to trade and when not to trade. He shows you typical scenarios and how to overcome them and how not to be afraid of "ghosts" (as they say in chess).

The presentation material is excellent but the scope of this topic is too big to present in under 3 hours.

One game I would have definitely like to see him cover was the incredible game, Kramnik - Anand, Belgrade 1997 where Anand displayed an incredible array of defensive skills but that game would've probably taken up over an hour to explain. :)

IMHO I would say that the target audience rating of this DVD is between 1200-2100.

Presentation style: 9/10
Material: 8/10
Length: 5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

This is not to say the DVD is poor. It's quite the opposite, the material is excellent but I feel that more material could have been covered to reinforce certain points. I come away from this DVD learning some new things about the art of defence but I also felt the coverage was light and not as comprehensive as a whole if you compare with some of his earlier Powerplay DVDs. If you are a player who constantly gets into trouble or falling into passive positions, this DVD will really help to open your eyes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Strong Prey On The Weak

.... and that has been the way of Mother Nature since time immemorial.

I have never stopped using FICS (freechess) to play blitz games. Over the course of many months, I come to notice a few regulars (recognisable by their nicks) and looking back on my games with them, I'd noticed a trend.

For these opponents who beat me at blitz games, they tend to beat me on a regular basis. When I look back on these games, I'd noticed how strong their positional and situational sense are. They rarely if ever, overlook a tactical shot but what did grab my attention was how often and regular that they "know" where to put their pieces ie. on the best squares.

Every move they make tends to hold certain value. It may be either taking away a square, preparing a combination, covering weaknesses in their defence. In other words, they are constantly making moves to improve their advantage or reduce your advantage.

I was very surprised that at blitz speed, they have an incredible innate sense of awareness and understanding of the position. And it is the mastery of this technique that is essential to be acquired so one can get better at chess.

I have a regular opponent (A) on FICS, so far our mutual score reads something like +1,000,000-0=0 (j/k) in my opponent's favour. When I play against A, in one game, he can beat me in a very nice little combination and in the next game, using his superior knowledge of positioning to outplay me and in another game, display better endgame technique.

It's literally quite amazing to see the skill required to become a good chess player (class A or above player).

So how does one get better at chess?

Unfortunately, there is no quick elixir for this problem. To get better at chess, one needs to put in the hard yards. And that involves chess study. Lots of chess study. And the chess study must involve all aspects of the game, from the opening to the endgame, from tactical training to understanding and adopting appropriate strategies to the given situation.

There are plenty of good chess material out there that can do just that. You can use Silman's books, or play through any World Champion's annotated games or use software like Convekta's Training courses or as some fellow bloggers have done (turn to ICS - International Chess School). There is no one road to chess mastery as long as you balance all aspects of your chess ability.

After all, nobody likes being the rabbit all the time.

Onwards! :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chess Position Trainer 4 Preview And Help

Stefan Renzewitz, the creator of the free Chess Position Trainer needs your help.

Stefan has produced one of the best chess opening trainers in the market (don't get me started on transpositions in Chessbase *grin*).

He has a technical preview of the upcoming software Chess Position Trainer v4 (Technical Preview) available and would like help in finding potential bugs.

A word on Chess Position Trainer - it's an absolute gem of a software that is very effective in building up and learning your opening repertoire quickly.

If you've never heard of Chess Position Trainer before, I strongly urge you to give it a try. It makes opening repertoire preparation very much easier. Chess Position Trainer can also be used to for endgames and tactics training.

Don't just take my word for it, you can reviews of the current versions here:

As a chess patzer myself, there's not much point in shelling out lots of moolah for Chessbase or Chess Assistant if all I want is for opening training.

Chess Position Trainer Information:

Website: www.chesspositiontrainer.comLink

The documentation and software is available for download at their website. If you need to get your feet wet, there are free tutorials
on how to use it as well as to apply it to things like tactical training:

The technical preview v4 can be obtained from the link below:

CPT Technical Preview v4.0

PS: I don't make any money out of this - just hate to see a good software not getting the publicity it deserves.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Find The Next Move

In this game, my opponent, Black just played 1.... exf4.

How would you evaluate this position? White with a slight advantage? Equal?

How should White continue?

Hint: The continuation is not easy to see but you know that when the Knight+Queen is about, there's always tactical shots waiting. Think about it for at least 5 minutes.

Answers can be found by highlighting between the brackets

[2. ... e5!! and Black must lose a piece. The threat is no matter what Black does to take the pawn, the followup is 3. Ne7+! as the Knight is immune to capture due to potential mate on h7. The Black King can escape via g6 but the attack for White by then is utterly crushing with 4. Qxh7 and 5. Nf6.]

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Between Work And Chess

It's really hard to split your time between work and chess and family as I found out to my detriment.

In the meantime, I've been hanging out at Norths Chess watching the club competition. My brother-in-law Steven made a short draw with Jack Ruan last week. I plan to go see him in action tomorrow again.

My wife is still recuperating from her ankle surgery. She can walk upright now (slowly) and is trying to walk without the use of crutches but she has gone back to work (Thanks to all for their well wishes). We're hoping that she recuperates fully as we're planning to travel to the USA in 3 weeks' time.

I've got a few Roman's Lab DVDs from my father-in-law as well as working through some of videos (yes, I do subscribe to them) as well as a couple of Fritz Trainer DVDs that I purchased some time ago (Daniel King's Powerplay 11 - okay - I know 12 is out and Viktor Bologan's DVD).

I spent much of last weekend working on a few endgame problems (using Mueller's FCE book and his Chessbase Trainer). I've also tried to concentrate and work at creating an opening repertoire database but it's been far less fruitful than I would have hoped. I'm still tossing between Chessbase Light and Chess Position Trainer. Bummer. Both software have their pros and cons and I'm finding it hard to pick one.

On other good news, my office working hours till 7pm is about to change once daylight savings kick over in April - which means my working hours will fall to 5.30pm once again ie. more time for chess at night. :D

In the meantime, I've elected to not play in either Ryde-Eastwood nor North Sydney club championships.