Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lucas Chess

While surfing the web, I happen to come across a very neat free chess program called Lucas Chess (Website:

This nifty chess program does something very well. It trains you and allows you to play against progressively strong chess engines (using commercially free chess engines - think Rybka and Stockfish). In addition, the program also allows a lot of leeway when playing against a chess engine, you can predefine the number of takebacks or you can ask for a set number of hints from a stronger chess engine. It is similar in concept to using "helplines" on those "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" game shows.

After playing around with it, I have to say that I am EXTREMELY IMPRESSED with this program.

What is very interesting about this little application is that it achieves the abovementioned objectives INCREDIBLY well.

The interface is extremely beautiful and you can also choose from a variety of themes to customise the look of the board and pieces.

To add icing to the cake, LucasChess also includes a whole host of training modules. The modules included with the program are of a wide range, they include amongst other things, tactical combinations, chess problems (mate in 2, 3, 4 and more), basic endgame techniques (think Vancura, Lucena positions), and board memorisation.

Having played with it for quite a while now, I would say that this program is really what you need to get to at least 1700 level.

While some users may find the lack of customisation (in terms of adding add-on modules) somewhat restrictive, it detracts from everything else that is great about this program.

I can go on and on about the usefulness of this chess program but one thing is for sure, this application is going to be a keeper and a mainstay on my computer.

Many thanks to the programmers and all involved in the making of this application. It is a solid gold grade A effort!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Never Going To See Zwischenzugs

It's quite funny... I just finished an online blitz game and I thought I performed the game quite well. However, upon turning on the silicon machine, Fritz immediately discovered that my opponent was winning with a huge advantage of over +3.00!! It so turns out that my opponent had missed a vital move and played what seemed like a natural human move which shrank his advantage from +3.00 to an instant 0.00 in 1 move and then -1.10 in the next move - shocking to say the least.

However, I have to admit that the winning move was quite difficult to spot. He had put my king under immense pressure and had continued to check my king, inadvertently missing a zwischenzug (an in between move) that didn't involve a check which would have won the game 2 moves later.

This is one problem I had (not with respect to the book) while reading the book from Charles Hertan on Forcing Chess Moves in which he discusses zwischenzugs on Chapter 8. In this chapter, while Hertain explains the importance of always looking for zwischenzugs, in practice, it is EXTREMELY difficult to spot and near impossible to calculate if you're calculating rather long variations in your head.

Even World Championship matches have been decided because of this important tactical motif. A case in point, in Game 12 of this year's match between Topalov and Anand - Topalov had evidently missed 34....Qe8 when he started the tactical complications starting with 31. exf5 but not Anand. If a 2800 rated player can miss it, what chance is there for us mere mortals? :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

London Chess Classic Live Video Stream

The London Chess Classic is now online.

What may interest people is that the games are commented live (complete with video feeds) by GM Daniel King. Yesterday, we had IM Lawrence Trent and today, GM Chris Ward joined the live commentary.

But what is of particular interest is that for every game, King comments on the various possible variations (without the aid of computer engines!). This is valuable commentary and honestly, watching King presents is like having a chess coach explain to you why certain moves work, some don't, what kind of strategies should be adopted, middlegame plans, endgame techniques - extremely valuable information for the club player who wants to improve his game.

You can catch it here:
London Chess Classic Live Video Stream

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blitz And More Blitz

I've not been playing in tournaments for the past 9 months now and have been just playing the occasional online blitz (usually 10 min or 5 min + 12 sec increment).

I noticed that as I played more and more blitz, my analysis skills became shallower and shallower, resorting to short calculations or variations. This has steadily led to a regression of my chess knowledge - so in the end, I just really couldn't be bothered with times and have resulted in losing games based on time. My FICS rating has since plummeted to the mid-1400 range and I'm not the least bit concerned. I find that I gained greater satisfaction from losing a blitz game while playing better moves than to win a blitz game playing poor moves.

True, I calculate deeper than I should for blitz but I think it's a good skill to cultivate in the long run.

With the London Chess Classic starting tomorrow (today is the drawing of lots), there's no shortage of chess coverage. I cannot remember the last time chess has been so active in the international scene.

It appears that chess is currently undergoing a mini-revival (in spite of the global economic downturn). This is certainly heartening to see.