Thursday, October 21, 2010

If Your Opponent Was Him

.... what would you do? A Tattoo Too Far (weblink opens a video interview)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Great Equaliser

It's been slightly more than 13 years since Kasparov lost to the computer Deep Blue. What this monumental impact it had on the chess world has been nothing short of incredible.

We now know that the best chess mind in the world is no match against the best chess engine in a tactical slugfest. That's because chess engines have the incredible ability to walk a tightrope and still hold a game (given enough processing power and adequate time). Emotion and pressure has no bearing on its performance.

So what has really happened since then?

Instead of signaling the death of chess, what has happened ironically is the exact opposite. Computers have made chess become even more accessible to everyone.

No longer do you need someone to tell you what tactic you missed in your OTB game. The computer will show you the way in less than a blink of an eye, thereby helping you in your game.

The prolifigeration of chess material on the internet and in bookshops, online stores have been incredible. Unsure what your opening plan and strategy should be? Look up in any of the free online databases to see what everyone is playing. Not sure if this 2P+R+K v P+R+K endgame is winning? Look up any of the widely free tablebase chess servers on the Net and your answer will be given.

What also has given rise is the increasing usage by human players to make computer-like moves. Moves which seem impossible and counter to reason suddenly can now be shown to work.

The internet is also largely responsible for the increase and spread of chess information, being quick to embrace chess in all its forms. You can find video analyses of old master games on YouTube, read free online annotations by GMs on games, watch videos of recent tournaments.

We now have so much chess information floating around in the web that it does not matter if you're a 2700 GM or a 700 player, you still have access to the same information as the next person. Never has the playing field been more even.

The unfortunate part is that it also allows anyone to be an armchair critic. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Buyer's Not-So-Remorse

Do you feel guilty of buying too many chess books and not getting around to reading them all?

I'll be the first to put my hands up for this.

I've so far in my possession a couple of books on my bookshelf that I did not get around to finish reading them.

And last week, I just bought another chess book, San Luis 2005 (will be arriving in 2 weeks time via mail) in spite of the fact that I've not finished reading the other 2 New In Chess books that I'm currently reading.

One good thing I found was that I really need to invigorate myself (practically force myself) to read finish the current books in my possession.

But the progress has been slow. A chess book takes ages to complete for me because I have a tendency to want to replay them with a real chess set instead of moving the pieces around in my head. So 1 game takes me at least 2 hours to finish, analyse and understand the motifs and read the annotations (including variations) of why certain moves are made.

It's also extremely tiring to my eyes if I was to replay it on the computer. The problem with playing it over the computer is that my mind is not able to recall it as vividly unless I push the wooden pieces around.

I predominantly identify myself as a type of person who needs to learn via "doing", not one who learns via simple introduction and reading of new material.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

FIDE Training And Recommendations

Now we all know that if we were to approach chess learning the same way we do in school - that is, through consistent effort, diligence, hard work and motivation, there's no reason why we cannot succeed in chess.

So if we were to approach chess the way we study, what kind of books and is there any kind of material that we can obtain to help us understand chess better?

Thankfully, the people at the FIDE Trainers Commission have a nice bunch of information to help you out.

Included here is a list of 100 chess books (note that the list is a bit old - it would be nice if they have an updated list but many of the recommendations are already excellent)

in which they also list their top books for FIDE trainers.

Also available on the official FIDE Trainers websites are some excellent training materials (called "surveys" - talk about misnomers) at :

(Available in downloadable/viewable pdf, doc and zipped cbv/pgn formats)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chess Engines On The Cheap

.... well actually, free. :)

Unless you happen to be a chess professional or a serious chess enthusiast/player and absolutely want the latest and greatest chess engines, ranging from Hiarcs 13 to Rybka 4 and you have a bit of moolah to spend, then you probably don't want to read this blog post.

An amateur and a patzer such as myself, don't use the latest nor the greatest chess engine at all.

Besides the ever common Crafty (did you know it came in joint 2nd in the recent 2010 World Computer Rapid Chess Championship?) which you can get for free (, there are also a few free chess engines available.

Rybka v2.3.2a is available for free from the Rybka website (

Stockfish is another free chess engine ( along with Toga II.

There are also other free chess engines that are available and which have been removed from participation due to accusations of decompilation and cloning by the Rybka team. These chess engines include Firebird and Ivanhoe (which are reputedly even stronger than Rybka4). As to where to get these chess engines, well, I don't need to tell you how to find them, do I?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Finish Him

In the game "Mortal Kombat"(or as I affectionately like to call it - More-Dull Combat), the finishing blow to win over your opponent in this computer game is to land a killer blow (called a "Fatality"). So what has is got to do with chess?

Well, is there anything worse than losing a chess game?

Yes, when it's losing a chess game that you know you had a winning position but you could not convert the advantage and not being able to land the killing blow!

History has been filled with such examples from patzers like me, all the way to elite Grandmasters (the Topalovs, Anands and Kramniks etc.). It has also occurred with surprising regularity and at the highest levels (see the Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship match 1951).

The recent Chess Olympiad is a good example.

Just to show you how bad my calculation skill is, take a look at the following position:

My opponent Black just played

20. ....Qd4?? trying to exchange off my Queen. I meekly retreated my Queen in the game but there is a nice little tactical blow in this position that will give me an advantage.

Can you spot it?

It's 21. Nd4!.

Once you see the move, it's not hard to realise what is happening. If Black takes the Queen with 21.... Qxg4 22 Nf6+ forks both King and Queen and White is a healthy piece up.

If Black moves the King with 21.... Kg7 Then 22. Qxd4 and either 22... cxd4 or 22... exd4 results in the 2 Rooks being forked with 23. Nd7 with a healthy exchange up.

So how does a patzer like me improve my skill in recognising killer blows?

We turn once again to the patriarch Mikhail Botvinnik.

Botvinnik had no chess coach. So how then did he develop his talent?

What he would do is to play over his games, extenuously finding improvements in his play or he can learn to play better. He will play out as many variations of his games as much as possible, objectively trying to seek out the "truth" in each position. By doing so over and over and over again, Botvinnik's chess acumen improved. He start to formulate plans, strategies, and more importantly, he developed his incredible ability to calculate long variations accurately.

This kind of training plan is purposeful. It's training with a plan, a plan that identifies your weaknesses and strengths and how to improve on your weaknesses and to develop your strengths at the same time.

In my case, my weaknesses are in the middlegame and in tactics. As a result, I find myself unable to recognise opportunities when they present themselves. So my training plan should involve solving middlegame problems, and tactical problems and familiar patterns and strategies arising from my typical middlegames.

So what is your plan?