In my post titled ‘Strategy’ I showed an example of a game that I thought I had played well. It had reached move 32 as per the diagram below and I felt I had an easy win and the game would be over in the next few moves. The game went on for another 28 moves and demonstrated to me that a strong player will still look for opportunities that can be dangerous. The last 28 moves are analysed below without a computer
I received my newsletter from the Canterbury Junior Chess Club and there was a report about the WYO competition in Hungary. Australia are doing well and it sounds like they’re enjoying the trip. They also came away with 3 Brilliancy prizes! In round four Australia’s Jack Puccini won one against an opponent rated better than him in a Sicilian, in round six Zachary Loh created brilliancy in the French Defense (Tarrash) and in round nine fellow Canterbury chess member Max Chew Lee won another brilliancy with a central gambit (Danish?). Here they are bellow with the comments that I found from the tournament website.
The voyage above 1200 is hard for me and I think one of the biggest problems I have is understanding effective strategy. I’ll define what I understand strategy to be because when I started writing this blog I was unsure about the difference between strategy and tactics. Tactics are a series of a few moves that have a specific target. Usually the moniker ‘tactics’ is only given when the burst of moves are creative and move away from expected natural moves. Strategy is a vaguer concept. Not so vague as ‘My strategy is to win’ or so specific as ‘if I do this, they’ll do that and I’ll be able to…’ (tactics). Strategy occurs in the middle game and its about creating a PLAN of attack. I watched a video recently on Chess.com by an FM called Todd Andrews called ‘Learning the 3 Must Know Rules of Middlegames’. I found it hugely instructive and it clicked with some of my recent thinking. In it he simplifies the process to 3 rules in the same way that openings have 3 rules; control the centre, develop your pieces, castle. The 3 rules Todd advocates are: get all your pieces into the game, make a plan, choose specific target. I’m going to reduce that to 2 rules since ‘get all your pieces into the game’ seems to be part of opening rules and I’m adding 1 new rule ‘Flexibility’. So the 3 rules are make a plan,choose specific targets and be flexible.
MAKE A PLAN: This is a nebulous concept and it needs some clarification. The first step is to look at the board and understand it in terms of advantage and disadvantage. Where are your active pieces, are there any open files or diagonals that would help you? Where do you have space? Can you pawn storm? Typically you should be able to identify the strengths of your position and choose from and attack on the Queen side, centre or King side. I’ll reiterate that – choose an attack on the King, Queen or centre. It is also important to pay attention to where your opponent will strike from.
CHOOSE SPECIFIC TARGETS: Part of the assessment of your position would identify weak pawns and pieces. Once these pieces (including pawns – especially pawns) are identified they need to be pounced on. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on them in a relentless manner using tactics.
FLEXIBILITY: Positions change and it is important to be able to reassess the position on the board. As you bear pressure in one area your opponent’s defence may create greater opportunities elsewhere – shift. Also your opponent may be building a strong attack – clamp it down. You may find that you have the option of putting pressure on a square or an area with two or more pieces, which piece will give you greater flexibility, which piece can attack and defend.
The above advice is different to the advice I would have given a month ago. Then I would have said ‘Look for good squares for your pieces’ – see post titled ‘Outposts’. That advice still holds true but it is not active enough. The placing of pieces to good squares must be part of an active plan.
Here is a game I’m currently playing in which I think I have been more active. It is an ongoing Chess.com game and if I win it will be my best win to date. I may lose.
Well the game has finished and what I thought would be a straightforward victory ended up being a bit of a struggle and went on for 60 moves. I have posted about this in ‘Keepin’ on keeping on’.
Here is a link I found to some chess data visualisation. I have used some of these images in other posts. Apparently Carlsen has improved not because he wins more but because he converts his losses to draws.
I think I am getting better. Perhaps not at blitz games but at correspondence games. I am midway through a webserver based correspondence ICCF game and I have 2 wins and a draw with three games remaining – this included a win over someone rated 1800+ that I wrote about in my post ‘A Coffee House Win’. I also joined a chess.com 3 day per move tournament for players rated under 1650 and in my group of 5 I have won 5 games, lost 1 and drawn 2 games – my loss was after 64 moves. At this stage I’m leading in a field of 30 players and my rating has gone from 1478 to 1577, it’s now the highest its ever been. What has been surprising for me is the amount of draws I’ve been getting. I always see draws at high level competitions and to me it suggests that both players are playing careful enough games that no-one makes a bad error. I never used to draw games and I see this new development as something positive – unfortunately there’s a few errors in these. Here are my recent drawn games.
This next game is interesting for the concept of ‘opposition’
Chess is undoubtably cool and it needs to look cool. The London Candidates Venue looked great – modern, studious, dramatic. Bobby Fischer in his dark blue suit was Gucciesque. Who can forget the soviet era with all its cold war chic – Kasparov vs Karpov, KGB limos? Think James Bond circa 1960’s or as per Casino Royale. There is clearly an opportunity to reinvigorate the image of chess rather than have the image at the top of this post.
My suggestions are… Get rid of the audience. Over a million people were watching the World Championship online and about 12 were in the audience – most looked like they were there under duress, seeing them looked awful. Make it a feature that there’s no audience – ‘the players are now going into isolation… They will come out when a result occurs’, like space explorers stepping out of the landing capsule. Use design to highlight this process of ‘going into isolation’ – like the Big Brother house but not crass. Have a dynamic stat showing internet audience if possible (as long as the figure is large) – this will make people feel as though they are part of something big. When you have ads (commercials) don’t have a Phosphate manufacturer for agribusiness, dont play a poorly produced video of someone ambling around a one room chess museum in Moscow. Surely an international high tech company or a logistics company would jump at being associated with chess – the YouGov Poll shows an ideal audience. Don’t have advertising on clothes, use the ad breaks for the sponsors to sell. The same holds true for the venue, use the press conference to have background logos. Design an incredible set in a prestigious location. An observation station on a high mountain peak in the swiss alps or the top of a skyscraper in Shanghai, even a purpose built temporary venue in Washington Square Park (architectural competition) – the venue can be quite creative since you are now free of a physical audience. Use technology beautifully. Make technology interactive so that people can, for instance, choose what commentator they want to hear – beginners will want different commentary to those that understand algebraic notation, some might choose commentary in a different language. The commentators should be the only audience at the venue and should not use engines, put them in dark little glass boxes overlooking the play. Also use technology to provide features like analysis boards so the internet audience can try out their own moves. Allow the internet audience to vote for moves before they happen and have a competition to see who gets closest to the actual game. The internet audience should be able to choose engines to evaluate players standings or suggests moves. Have more stats.
In summary understand that this event is an internet event; not TV, not physical audience.
On Tuesday I played chess with a friend called Tom. I’m very lucky to have someone who plays at the same level as me and our games are close. Usually our games end at around the 30 move mark, this Tuesdays the game was longer and moved into an end game. After the game I asked Tom if he would analyse it from his point of view and I would analyse it from mine. Here are his comments followed by my analysis (I did the analysis before his comments).
“I focused on 2 moves that felt wrong during the game (skipping the opening, I need to do more research in how to respond to the scotch). Move 13 …Nh5 I noted with a ? during the game – as this lost a pawn straight away. Better was Nd7, looking to sink the knight in c5 next move. The next move that I was uncertain about during the game was 18 …f5. I couldn’t find anything better here, but the next move 19 …fxe was probably wrong f4 would have been more forceful (I think I was trying to get material back!).”