Sunday, November 20, 2011

Internet Handles

I have to say, you encounter lots of internet players with ego-trips (you can tell them by the internet handle - click on the image above to see my opponent's handle).

Take for this instance, this player whom I played.... naturally, my opponent took the easy way out instead of resigning (which seems to be the norm these days when these players lose - they simply disconnected on me).

Speaking of which.... if this is false advertising, then ... can I get my money back? ;-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chess Blindness

Why are some positions more difficult to see than others?

Take for instance, this position I played a while back online. I am White.

For some odd reason, I totally missed the shot. The Black king attacks my Knight and I played the most "natural" move... 1. exf6??

Looking at it now, I just cannot understand how I could have missed such a simple tactic.

I had totally missed the simple 1. e6+!! forking both Queen and King. The unusual placement of the Knight and the fact that it can control the e6 square (in reverse) made me unaware of the tactical shot.

However, if you think elite Grandmasters and World Champions are above it all, guess again!

1. In the recently concluded Botvinnik Memorial, the World rated #1 Magnus Carlsen missed this against Viswanathan Anand by playing 1. R4e1?? What did Carlsen miss?

2. Even the great endgame specialist and 3rd World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca suffered from this. In this game v Thomas, his opponent incorrectly resigned after Capablanca played 1. Qa8?? What did Capablanca miss?

3. Even one of the greatest players of all time also suffers from chess blindness. In the following game, Viswanathan Anand v Garry Kasparov. Kasparov took the Bishop with 1...Qxe3?? What did Garry Kimovich miss?

Answers can be found by highlighting the brackets
Game 1
1...g6 2. Ng3 Bf2 and White must sacrifice an exchange down with Rook for Bishop. Carlsen subsequently lost.

Game 2
1... Rxa2! and White is forced to trade massive material leading to a losing endgame 2 pawns down.

Game 3
2. Qxg4 uncovering the hidden attack on the Black Queen and attacking the Rook on c8.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Practical Endgames Vol 8 - Practical Rook Endgames

I've finally gotten a chance to sit down and watch Karsten Müller's Endgame Vol 8 - Practical Rook Endgames.

It's taken him a couple of Chessbase DVDs but Müller now is able to smile on camera and is definitely very relaxed. He is in a particularly jovial mood and his presentation on camera is infectious.

There is no denying the endgame aspect of the royal game is definitely in his area of expertise and this time, he gives it in spades.

Mixing a bit of humour (for a German!) in between serious analysis and explanations, Müller is by now extremely comfortable in front of the camera. This is in stark contrast to his earlier DVDs where he can rattle off some complex variations and endgame techniques in a single breath. Here, Müller takes the time to pause and allows the idea to sink in (but not too long). He has definitely become a much better presenter, in fact, in spite of his German accent, his English is easily understandable and he has become one of my two favourite Chessbase authors (the other being Daniel King).

Ironically, one of the best segments was his commentary on an endgame between himself and fellow Chessbase DVD author, Daniel King. It was a team event in the German Bundesliga and Müller's team had by then lost. However, he explains how he wanted to play the endgame through to the end with King much to the consternation of his team-mates who wanted to go out and eat.

"Why go and eat when you can play a Rook ending?" was his reply.

LOL. The game lasted some 75 odd moves so you can imagine how long his team had to wait for him!

This DVD focuses exclusively on Rook endgames. Unlike his earlier DVD 2 (did I review this? I really need to find my old Chessbase DVDs in the closet), he expounds on important techniques such as how to deal with a blockading Rook, how to use the checking distance effectively, how to maximise the full potential of the Rook.

Chessbase has kindly provided a short video of this DVD. In this video, Müller adopts a slightly more serious tone but this video is typical of the rest of his videos, his explanations are always succinct and precise.

However, all this is not just fun and games. When you start the video, Müller fully EXPECTS you to pause the video in the beginning and study the position and decide on the best course of action to take.

I feel that this method is the best way to reap maximum benefit from this DVD.

The DVD is broken down into the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Rook v Pawn (5 videos)
Chapter 2: Rook techniques (9 vide0s)
Chapter 3: Protection against a series of checks (10 videos)
Chapter 4: The 4th phase of the game (3 videos)
Chapter 5: Activity counts most (5 videos)
Chapter 6: Defence (12 videos)
Chapter 7: Complicated cases (8 videos)

The majority of each video lasts between 2-4 minutes. However, do not be put off by the short length of the videos. What matters most important is the communication of ideas and how well the audience is able to absorb the lessons imparted by Müller. And it is here that Müller does not fail you.

There is one more thing I need to add. In some positions when Müller says this game is "theoretically drawn", he EXPECTS you to know HOW TO DRAW THIS GAME. If you're having trouble with this, please do get a copy of his book, Fundamental Chess Endings (or Nunn's Chess Endings) and read it. At the very least, get his earlier Chessbase DVDs Endgames Vol 1 and 2. These 2 DVDs will teach you the basic strategies and how to apply them correctly in endgames.

In summary, this is a top class video presentation given by Müller. He has IMHO, overtaken Dvoretsky as my favourite endgame author.

I am definitely looking forward to his next Chessbase DVD on endgames. Incidentally, if you haven't got enough of his endgame lessons, I encourage you to visit the Chesscafe website (where he produces an Endgame column every month).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moves You Should Never Play

Sorry for the long time in not updating my blog. I've been terribly busy with work and had not had much time with chess.

In the meantime, I've been playing the occasional online blitz games. Here's a collection of puzzles (no solutions! - I decided to put the solutions after all) that you might find interesting. These are snapshots of games that either my opponent or I missed and played a really lousy move that changed the course of the game! See if you can find out the response.

Diagram 1 - 1. Nd2?? ... The retribution was swift.

Diagram 2 - 1. Re1?? No more draws for White

Diagram 3 - 1. Ba3?? Asking for trouble
(this one is not that big an advantage for Black but
it ended up with White having to defend for long periods
before finally succumbing to relentless pressure)

Diagram 4 - 1.... Rxc3?? Black becomes a pawn grabber and
instantly regrets the decision

Update -Solutions added:
Hi LinuxGuy.

No problems. Maybe I'll give out the answer in a different colour (you can see the answer by highlighting)

Diagram 1: White suffers from tactics failure and instantly loses a piece due to 1....Nxd4 and the Knight is untouchable else White loses the Rook due to the pin on c2.

Diagram 2: White should have played the counter-intuitive 1. Kb2! and can salvage a draw because the Black king cannot approach the a-pawn without the Rook giving checks from behind. Now Black wins after 1. Rf1 due to 1... Re2+ 2. Kd3 (forced) Rg2 and starts gobbling the g-pawns. Black will win the pawns and the game later.

Diagram 3: The White king only has 1 defender. The Knight on f3 so that means the typical sacrifice 1... Rxf3! And White is in a heap of trouble after this move. In this game, my opponent tried. 2. Bxd6 Qxd6 3. gxf3 Nxh2 and if the White rook moves (else White is a pawn down for nothing) followed by 4... Nxf3+ with Qh2 and Black starts rolling his pieces out. For a rook, Black has 2 pawns and a Knight and an open White king under fire. More than sufficient compensation. White didn't survive long in this game.

Diagram 4: Again the typical sacrifice occurs with 1... Rxf6!! If 2. gxf6 Black is in deep trouble after Nxh6+ followed by Qh5.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rybka Officially Banned

As I've reported earlier on the ongoing saga regarding Rybka as a legitimate chess engine, the International Computer Games Association (ICGA) has just officially disqualified and banned Rybka and its programmer Vasik Rajlich from previous and future World Computer Chess Championships.

In addition, the ICGA is also asking that it returns the trophies+prize money of the World Computer Chess Championships in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

More details here:

Just wow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Out Of The Frying Pan

Sometimes, we get ourselves deeper into the abyss. Take for example this blitz game that I just finished. White played too passively and is paying the price. The White king is exposed, the Black Knight has infiltrated into White's camp and the White pieces are not well-placed.

Black to play.

Here, I'm not going to kid myself. The most predictable move is naturally which I dished out in an instant.

1... Rd2 (no prizes for guessing this move)

The White Queen has a few moves and here, I was thinking....

2. Qe5 but the problem is after 2.... Qxe5 White drops a further pawn after
3. fxe5 Rxf2

White realising this, plays instead.

2. Qe3 and it is here that I set the trap. So the

Question: Can you see what is wrong with this move?

(blanks deliberately inserted)

(more blanks deliberately inserted)

(moer blanks deliberately inserted)

My opponent did indeed play 2. Qe3 but now White is in complete ruins because of .............

2.... Nd3! and the Rook or Knight cannot be taken because of mate on b2 and White would lose the Queen in the process. Ouch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Problem With Holidays

Hi folks, I'm currently not in Sydney - have not been there for the past 2 weeks. In fact, I'm back in the sunny tropics of Singapore visiting my parents, my brother and my in-laws.

So far, it's been a blast. I've brought along my chess tactics book but sad to say, I've been doing nothing the past week except having great lunch/dinner treats all the time. My father-in-law had a new iPad2 given to him by my brother-in-law so I've been busy collecting videos and uploading to his iPad2. You'd be surprised by the amount of free instructional chess videos on youtube and

Of course, this also meant that my chess has taken a very distant backseat as the book I brought along with me has been left on my father's workdesk has been left looking *very* neglected. Hehe.

Unfortunately, my days in the tropics are coming to an end soon. And I'll have to go back to work.... bummer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Ideas Behind The Move

In order to find the correct move, it is necessary to first find out the correct plan. There are 2 ways to formulate a plan.

a) Work forwards ie. if I play this, my opponent plays this and so on and evaluate.

A nicer common idea is to:

b) Work backwards. Find out if the current board position matches up to a previous pattern you've seen before and how to get the pieces to the correct squares. If no pattern emerges, ask yourself, how best to checkmate your opponent then find out the steps to make this happen.

White to play

Yes, it's another puzzle and this one I just played a moment ago. And this one is not too easy but not overly hard (if you know what to look for).

White is obviously in a great position. How does White further press home the advantage?

When you're ready for the solution, scroll down below......

(blanks deliberately placed)

The move is

1. b6!! Do you see the idea? Now in this game, Black felt forced to take on b6 and replied with 1.... cxb6 (shown below)

Now comes the entire idea behind the whole b-pawn push......

2. Rh7! (threatening mate on a7) and now 2.... Bxh7 is met with
3. Rd7 (and unavoidable mate)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Find The Continuation

I just finished off an online blitz game. I thought that I had played well until I ran it past Fritz..... and what a surprise I got!!!!

In the following puzzle, Black is under a huge pressure as below. Now we can all see what is coming. But that is not the question I want to ask. What I want to ask is:

Evaluate and find the best continuation after 1. Rxf5 gxf5 (this is what actually happened in the game).

When you have finished, see what Fritz found in the explanation far below! FYI, I didn't find the correct continuation but there's no stopping the silicon monster.

(Leaving blank spaces)

(Leaving more blank spaces)

1. Rxf5 gxf5 and we reach the position below. How do we proceed?

2. Ne4+!! A shot out of the blue!! Kh8 (forced) (2... Kh6 3. Qg5# naturally)

3. h6 (threatening 4. Qg7#)

and now.... Black is surprisingly mated.

2.... Rg8 is met by Qe5+ with unescapable mate to follow on g7

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tough Picture Puzzle Question

What is REALLY happening here?

a) Grischuk is offering a draw at move 0
b) Gelfand is offering a draw at move 0
c) They mutually agreed to draw at move 0 and will now go to the back of the hall to post-analyse this game together

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review : Improve Your Chess Tactics

A new book I ordered just arrived at my desk today. It's Yakov Neishtadt's "Improve Your Chess Tactics".

Before I start my review, I'll just give a brief blurb. I am familiar with Neishtadt's older tactics tome "Test Your Tactical Ability" from 1981 so I would do a bit of comparison with this new book and his older book.

First off, this book is fairly thick (but nowhere near the monstrous Chess Informant's Anthology of Chess Combinations 3rd Edition - if you'd ever want to get a hernia, carrying that book around would do it *wink*).

But this is not to say that this book offering from Neishtadt is lightweight either. It numbers 385 pages and offers over 700 lessons and exercises.

The first couple of paragraphs in the Introduction is word for word identical but there are some differences between the 1981 tome and this book, resulting in the introduction being worded slightly differently. This is not that big a problem. In fact, I find the introduction extremely well written and I do not think it needs any changes.

With that out of the way, let's go onto the meat of the book.

The book is classified according to themes. The first few sections are devoted to the primary ideas of Deflection, Decoying, Eliminating Defenders, Clearing Squares And Lines.

Each page has been arranged in 2 columns (with the exception of some section introductions).

Chess diagrams are clearly displayed and a small white box or black box indicated to the left of the chess diagram denotes which is the side to move.

The font used is typical of other New In Chess books (you can see the font in the puzzle diagram below). I've owned other New In Chess books including the excellent tournament books (also by New In Chess) Botvinnik-Smyslov and Botvinnik-Petrosian (I humbly suggest that you at least get Botvinnik-Smyslov if you're looking to get a good tournament book about the history behind the World Chess Championships - Botvinnik's annotations are superb).

Each section begins with a chockful of lessons. The author has clearly taken time to explain the not just the moves but also the ideas behind the moves and did not simply to resort to just pure Chess Informant style notations. Additional diagrams for these lessons are supplemented when the variations run too long and this is very nice to see. After all, not everyone can calculate like Magnus Carlsen or Vladimir Kramnik and can retain the diagrammed positions in their heads after some 12 ply moves.

It must also be noted that some lessons from the 1981 tome has carried over to this book (eg. Puzzle 103 Levitina v Gaprindashvili). However, the similaries end there. The words have clearly been rephrased so it looks like the author and editors have taken care to each puzzle and did not simply rehash the same paragraphs. However it must be noted that this simple rephrasing of the words does not mean that they make the explanation any less unclear.

Unlike the 1981 book, this book places a lot more emphasis on a combination of themes. While the older book focuses on specific themes like pinning, decoying etc, the newer and later chapters concentrate more heavily on the topic of a combination of themes. This is IMHO, a very good change and a refreshing update as compared with the old book. At the upper echelons of chess games, it is very unlikely that a game can be won through a simple theme like a pin. Typically, a combination of themes is a certainly required to turn the game to your advantage.

Unfortunately, the claims of having the combinations of the puzzles computer-checked is that it is not thorough. I've recently discovered a small error in the book and have emailed the editors about it and will await their response. I will update it once I've heard from them.

Now having spent some more time with this book for a good few hours, I've not noticed any more visible mistakes. In fact, I found the addition of newer games a very welcome change because some of the ideas and the games I've not seen before and are extremely instructive. Some of the combinations require a good deal of calculation. One of the nice things about this book is that the variations in the lessons never get too far ahead that it makes your brain struggle.

Once the lessons end, the real homework begins. This book is slightly different in its approach. In the older tome, Test Your Tactical Ability, the puzzles that proceed after the lessons are given with hints and problems to overcome. These are then followed by puzzles with just diagrams and no verbose provided.

In this book, puzzles with no explanations nor descriptions (just single diagrams) are presented first. It is only after these puzzles that is then followed by puzzles with some verbose question. In other words, the order of the puzzles have been reversed.

I have to warn you that at my patzer level, the puzzles that are aided with hints/questions are definitely not easy. Some are just given one-liners like "Continue the attack" or "Is Black's kingside really well defended?" or "Can you take the pawn on e5?" Others are however given very extensive treatment and can take up to a paragraph or two. A case in point, Puzzle 309 reads,"White has sacrificed a knight to open the h-file and his pieces are aiming at the kingside. By playing 1.Qe4, he threatens to bring the Queen to h4. It cannot be taken because of mate on h8. How can Black defend?"

Such questions can add to or detract from the puzzle (depending on your tastes) because they provide subtle hints that forces you to work through them. On the other hand, if you feel like up to a challenge, you can also choose to cover these hints with a piece of paper as you work through them. However what these questions do is that they force you to think critically and tactically.

The solutions are presented in the later half of the book. What I do like about the Solution pages is the layout (see picture on the right). Instead of just simply cramming in the solution to a single 1-2 liner littered with chess notation and symbols, detailed descriptions including explanations of the ideas are provided. That is a great aid to anyone who wishes to improve their tactical vision.

A more welcome change is that the original puzzle diagram is also posted to the left of the solution. This is more than an advantage than it appears. No longer do readers need to flip and back-flip to the puzzle page and solution page ad nauseum.

The older book, Test Your Tactical Ability has a section that is no longer present in this book. It is a small section titled,"Do you know the Classics?" In it, you will find the games played by great chess players of the past, and they range from well known tournaments to lesser known games vs lesser known opponents. While I find the omission of this section a bit sad (but not by much), I can understand why it has been removed. Sometimes, the moves played by great chess players of the past do not stand up to scrutiny against the most vicious chess engines of today.

All up, in spite of the error I discovered, I liked this book a lot and I can forsee that it is going to take me up to a year to work and re-work through the puzzles (yes, I have a day job) and I'll be having a lot of fun with it. I'm an old stick-in-the-mud player so I think the maximum benefit that can be derived from this book is if they set up the positions on an actual chess board and work through them by hand (alternatively, you can setup the board position on Fritz/Chessbase in 3D to give you roughly the same effect - although it's not the same, it saves you time from resetting the board positions ).

Conclusion: IMHO this book is fantastic. It is a great learning tool for players and coaches.
Target rating: 1700 - 2200

UPDATE: I've received the reply from the New In Chess editor. They were extremely responsive and replied with the next day. The problem with the diagram I've posted above (2nd diagram) is that there is a error in the line.

The original line is given as:

3. Bg6+! Inviting the king into a mating net
…… Ke6
4. Qc8+ Qd7
5. Bf5+ Kf7
6. Qxd7+ Kf8
BUT now
7. Qd8+ cannot be played because of Black's dark square bishop guarding the d8 square and thus, the rest of the continuation falls apart.

Instead, I've found a much better way to proceed. (LinuxGuy, nice spot on Qxc7 in the comments!)

3. Bg6+! Ke6
4. Qg8+! (idea is the White Queen stops the Black King's escape route along the back rank) Kd7
5. Bf5+ (the Black Queen is now forced to sacrifice itself) Qe6
6. Qxe6+ Kd8
7. Qd7#

Apparently, the NiC editor discovered my mating line was even quicker so they will add my line to the Errata page as well. :D

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aronian Bows Out

In the rapid match playoffs, Aronian blundered in time trouble as his position grew progressively worse as Grischuk piled on the pressure. He's now out of the Candidates.

Aronian realises he is dead lost

At the moment, Kramnik is still playing against Radjabov. In a nail-biting climactic game with Radjabov winning the 1st blitz game, the clock broke!

Radjabov couldn't believe he blew it by
getting zugzwang in a drawn endgame

The arbiters had to quickly sort out the issue. And when play resumed, Radjabov had a dead drawn ending and was on the verge of winning the tie when in the frentic melee that followed, he got zugzwang and lost!

And Kramnik lives to fight again....

In the 1st of the next 2 games, Kramnik as White coolly outplays Radjabov in a King's Indian. Advantage: Kramnik: 1-0

Big Vlad manages to squeeze a draw in the final game and thus wins their encounter and progresses into the semi-finals to play against Grischuk. Incredible save by Kramnik who was on the verge of losing just 2 hours ago!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tragic Topalov

Topalov v Kamsky

Chess is an extremely tragic game. I've been following the Candidates Matches. In Round 4, Veselin Topalov in his final must-win game against Gata Kamsky, blew a win on move 44. Kg1.

To be fair to him, this was an extremely complicated game and the correct move is not easy to find but even then Topalov still had 2-3 possible moves to retain his advantage.

The pained look on Topalov' face as
he realises his win has slipped away

Whatever has happened to Topalov? The old Topalov of 2005 would never have missed it. Now it seems that with him out of the Candidates, it would take another 4 years before he gets another chance to contest for the World Chess Championship title.

An extremely disappointed Topalov in the post-match conference

Pity. Despite all his shenaningans, it's hard not to feel sorry for him.

I am not a Topalov fan but I do admire his fighting spirit. I hope he recovers from this setback and regains his confidence.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Norths Reserves A - Final Result

I lost my final game against Rex Simmonds at Norths. Rex to his credit played well and I blundered in the most crucial moment - well, that's what you get for playing sharp lines, one misstep and down you go.

So I ended up with +4-3=4 .... a very very average mid-table performance and nothing worth shouting about.

I'm still kicking myself over this week's loss. It's one thing to play badly but quite another when you know you have a winning advantage and throw it all away in 1 move.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Puzzles With Imbalances

These are actual games I've played (don't scroll past the diagrams if you don't want to look at the solutions).

Game 1 - Winning Attack

Black (Me) has a winning attack, time to bring home the bacon....

(Black to play)

Game 2 - Find The Best Move

White had traded a Knight+Bishop for a Rook+Pawn to pry open my King position. I knew that Black has a slight advantage but I was thinking of how to best activate my pieces here. I sank into a deep long think.... and came up with a move. What move was it?
Black to play) :

Game 3 - I Didn't See It Coming

My opponent thought that he could defend with Black and played 1.... Qd6. What did he miss?

(White to play)


Game 1

1... Bf1+ 2. Rxf1 Rh2#

Game 2:

The move I played was 1.... Nh4! Suddenly the dawn of realisation came when my opponent realised that the Knight on h4 is untouchable. White tried 2. Qb3+ Bd5 and resigned a few moves later.

Added Question: Can you figure out why White cannot play 2. gxh4? Because it ends in mate!

1... Nh4
2. gxh4 Qxh2+
3. Kg1 Qh1+
4. Ke2 Qf3+
5. Kg1 e3!! and mate cannot be prevented

Game 3 -

The winning move was 1. f4! And mate cannot be stopped as the the next move is Qh7#. If
1. f4 Nxf4
(else 1.... Rh8 2. f7=Q+ Bxf8 3. Qg5#)
2. Rxf4 also results in mate after Qh7+ and Qh4#

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Final Stretch For North Sydney

Just a short blurb, with my final game for the North Sydney Reserves A due next week, I'm up against Rex Simmonds as Black.

This week, my game against 2nd placed Chris Sparks ended peacefully. That leaves me on 3rd place with John Pepping (winning his game against Peter Brennan). With 1st placed Clive Allen still having to play 2 more games, he is almost 100% certainty to win 1st place in our group.

My current score is +4-2=4 or 6 pts out of 10 pts so far. Not a great performance so far but as this was my first competition for over a year, I guess it can be considered a decent performance given the rustiness that has set in.

Rex was kind enough to invite me to a weekly training session that him together with a few other players (around my strength) but unfortunately, it takes place every Wednesday afternoon and I am working.

Thanks for the gracious invitation, Rex!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Congratulations, Anand

In case, anyone is wondering whatever happened to Aruna (Vishy's wife) and why she has been conspicuously absent for the last few months, well, the current World Champion just had a son to add to his list of achievements!

Congratulations to the new parents!

More details at Chessvibes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quiet Times

I've gotten a day off from work today so I finally have time to catch some breath.

I thought this would be a good time for some down time to continue my chess studies. I could not help but feel that my chess skills have regressed. I used to be able to do my tactics puzzle with relative ease and today, I found to my horror, that out of 7 chess puzzles, I only got 1 correct and even then, I stopped my calculation short by 4 ply moves!

Of course, being out of shape made me realise I need to put in more effort in my chess studies.

Tomorrow evening for the North Sydney Club Reserves A Club Championships, I'm facing young Thomas Zhou with the White pieces. Last week, I finally got over my fear of my opponent, Horst Bleicher who has beaten me nearly every time we met and managed to defeat him in an Open Sicilian (I was Black). So I'm now on +3-2=2 .... still an average performance so far.

Last week, my brother-in-law Steven asked me what my target was for this competition. I still have another 4 games to go till the finish line and I've not actually taken time to think of what I should aim for, maybe 5.5/11 points? Or maybe aim higher? It's interesting, because before the start of the competition, I try not to think about results and to focus on each game with as much energy as possible.

So far, I've not had that bad a result but to progress further, I really need to put in some serious study.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lumbering From One Loss To Another

Apologies for the lack of updates. So far, I've had 2 successive losses now at the North Sydney Reserves A Club Championships.

My friend even remarked to me that I look quite haggard in recent weeks, which is not surprising. This week's game against Robert Pike had me totally flat out before the game because of work.

Last week, I also got pulled aside by my boss for a talking to (he was planning to put me on report) in spite of putting in some good work in recent weeks and it's completely knocked me out of my rhythm. He doesn't want me to put in good work, he wants me to put in great work like I used to do.

As a result, I just could not concentrate over the board. Instead, I just played without calculation and that usually invites disaster.

I would like to put some "other" comments as well but I think this should be a "kid-friendly" website. :)

Anyway, up next week is Horst Bleichter and I'm playing Black.

Current results: +2-2=2

I feel like I should be continuing my chess studies but difficulties in maintaining concentration and getting the necessary motivation has been my major stumbling block.

Instead, I've spent my remaining free time, reading some old books on fiction. This week, I finished Agatha Christie's 4.50 From Paddington, James Wyndham's The Chrysalids, Richard Bachman's/Stephen King's The Running Man. With my ebook reader, I've been surprised by how fast I've been reading books of late and it's definitely brought back my love for reading. I find that reading fiction has also allowed me to take time out of any current worries and it's a great way to relax.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chicken Pox Scars

Hmm.... it's been 2 months since my first outbreak of chicken pox and my face is still punctuated with chicken pox marks (although a lot has since subsided).

My good wife has constantly encouraged me to apply whitening cream, moisturiser, toner.... etc. etc. and so far, it looks like it does help to soften the brown spots. But this week involves me trying something for a change. I'm going for a facial. I've never been to one before in my whole life. I don't know what got into me to agree to my wife's request.

So that got me thinking. When was the last time I tried something new in my chess openings?

I might be tempted to try a new opening for the next competition (too late to prepare anything for this one). Maybe I'll learn to play the Jaenisch Gambit of the Spanish or the Grob.... hehehe.

Strangely, tonight, right now I'm feeling a bit sick while waiting for the tournament to start in an hour's time as I'm blogging this. And for some odd reason, I've not been fully satisfied with my chess performance so far.

My opponent tonight is Stephen Javor who's rated some 50 points above me. I hope he finishes me quickly because I don't like long grinding games. I really want to go home early and sleep (due to me overexerting myself in the gym earlier in the day) and I'm flat out tired. :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Formal Complaint Officially Sent To ICGA About Rybka

Something just hit the fan and it's not pretty.

I had been quiety monitoring the Talk Chess forums for sometime now and the it appears that the dam has finally broken.

The creator of Fruit, Fabien Letouzey has filed an official complaint to ICGA complaining that Rybka has taken code from Fruit in direct violation of the GPL. Instead of reproducing the letter, I've provided the link to it. You can see it here from ChessVibes .

I had originally heard about it on the grapevine and was waiting for some official confirmation but it looks like ChessVibes was the first to report it.

What has given enormous weight is the list of whos-who of programmers who put their names on the letter. To those who are unfamiliar with the names, allow me to give a quick blurb for all of them.

Fabien Letouzey - creator of Fruit
Zach Wegner - co-developed Rondo
Mark Uniacke - creator of HIARCS
Stefan Meyer-Kahlen - developer of Shredder
Ed Schröder - creator of Rebel
Don Dailey - a computer chess engine developer since the 90s
Christophe Theron - programmer of Tiger
Richard Pijl - programmer of The Baron
Amir Ban - co-author of Junior
Anthony Cozzie - author of Zappa
Tord Romstad - needs no introduction
Ralf Schäfer - author of Spike
Gerd Isenberg - author of IsiChess and HansDamf
Johannes Zwanzger - author of Jonny

This is a very serious charge. Make no mistake, these are highly respected computer chess programmers with years of experience under their belts and when you get these many people putting their names directly accusing Vasik Rajlich (owner of the hugely successful Rybka) of violating the GPL and using code from Fruit, you can be sure that this will cause a major shakeup.

What now remains to be seen is how David Levy, Jaap van den Herik and the ICGA Board will respond to this serious charge.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Play Like Botvinnik Is Free

ChessOk has released "Play Like Botvinnik" (using the new Peshka interface) for free (for about a month now and I finally managed to get around to playing it).

So head on to their website and download it! :)

Play Like Botvinnik Download

For those of you who are unaccustomed the new Peshka interface, it is definitely very much improved from the old Convekta (users of the old CT-ART versions will know what I mean).

This is a 38 MB download but you'll get so much more in return.

Once you've installed and run it, you'll be greeted by the following screen.

Note that there is a notation window frame at the bottom right corner. In it, you will see notes, tournament tables, notations depending on what you click on the screen on the right above you.

The software contains a lot of test positions where you can give your hand at trying on how to play like the 6th World Chess Champion. These test positions range from tactical combinations to increasing your positional advantage.

To play them, simply click on the "Practice" button as shown above.

Besides the Practise sessions, you can also choose to test yourself by selecting the "Test" button on the button bar at the top and choose how many test positions you want to play at one given session. The Peshka interface also tracks your progress on how many you've gotten right or wrong.

By clicking on the "Theory" button, you will be presented with a tree list of games by Botvinnik. They include games from the early part of his career, to World Championship tournaments (shown above - completed with table and results). If you really want to improve your game (especially your middlegame), I suggest going through these annotated games. They are definitely worth the time and effort.

There is also one small caveat I find annoying. When playing through the games, there is no way to tell who is White and who is Black at first glance.

Nevertheless, this software is fantastic and I highly recommend it. After all, you can't beat free software, can you? :)