Monthly Archives: January 2016

Budapest

Budapest

I have been writing a lot about openings. One reason for this is the statistical discovery that I do better with 1.d4 openings and the other is because my son was looking for an opening against 1.d4 that suits his style which would be described as tactical and dynamic rather than positional.

My son doesn’t like playing against the French Defense (see my ‘Waterloo’ post) and although he has been learning the King’s Indian Defense he finds it constricting – I share his view hence my preference for the English and Dutch defenses. An alternative, aggressive, opening against 1.d4 is the Budapest Gambit. It is not an opening I have heard much about but it has recently been played at the highest levels so I feel confident that it isn’t junk. Here are two games by GM’s I admire.

and one of my own games

Here Kevin explains

Choosing An Opening – Style

doors

In my previous post I was surprised to find that statistically I play better as 1.d4 despite preferring more open games. The upshot of that post was that I should start playing more 1.d4 openings so that I get a better feel for them and find an opening that gives me the best chance of wining as white.

But wining isn’t everything. The two reasons I play chess are 1. for fun and 2. to get better. For the fun part of this equation I need to play games that I find exciting and beautiful, for me beauty is about dynamic, tactical, sacrificial and combinative play. For other people beauty and excitement may come from brilliant calculation, delicate positional play, endgames and complexity. Unfortunately there seems to be very little online concensus about what openings result in what type of game. I went to this website where you complete a quiz about yourself and it suggests openings. It suggested the French 90% (which I’m not that keen on), the English 88% (Meh), the Sicilian Najdorf 82% and much further down the Sicilian Dragon 53% (Ruy at 18%). Elsewhere people explain that one opening can quickly change in style so categorising openings is pointless – a view I understand but I also know that the King’s Gambit will be wilder than King’s Indian. So I am trying find ‘ballpark’ guide to opening style and I would love any input.

My impressions of openings that I sometimes based on; tactics, complexity, calculation, dynamics and positional play (out of 10) are:

Ruy Lopez: Tactics (6). Complexity (8). Calculation (7). Dynamics (5). Positional (8).

Scots Gambit: Tactics (7). Complexity (7). Calculation (6). Dynamics (6). Positional (6).

Danish: Tactics (7). Complexity (4). Calculation (5). Dynamics (7). Positional (5).

Kings Gambit: Tactics (7). Complexity (5). Calculation (5). Dynamics (9). Positional (5).

Queens Gambit: Tactics (6). Complexity (7). Calculation (7). Dynamics (4). Positional (8).

Sicilian Dragon: Tactics (7). Complexity (7). Calculation (7). Dynamics (6). Positional (8).

Sicilian Najdorf: Tactics (7). Complexity (7). Calculation (8). Dynamics (7). Positional (7).

King’s Indian Defense: Tactics (6). Complexity (8). Calculation (7). Dynamics (5). Positional (8).

French Defense: Tactics (5). Complexity (6). Calculation (7). Dynamics (5). Positional (8).

English Defense: Tactics (7). Complexity (5). Calculation (6). Dynamics (7). Positional (8).

Dutch Defense: Tactics (7). Complexity (5). Calculation (7). Dynamics (6). Positional (6).

Scandinavian: Tactics (6). Complexity (4). Calculation (5). Dynamics (8). Positional (5).

 

Choosing An Opening – Statistics

lab door

I have posted about beauty in chess and my view is that this comes from strong combinative attacks involving great tactics and which usually include bold sacrifices – against a skilled opponent. These kinds of games seem to typically favour a 1.e4 opening. Given my preference for this type of game I believed that I was a 1.e4 player. It therefore came as a shock to find out that I am 6% more likely to win if I play 1.d4 according to chess.com’s games explorer.

This is a problem, it seems that the kinds of games I like playing as white are the kinds of games I am more likely to lose. But this data may not tell the whole story. When I played as white I very often played the Ruy Lopez. So perhaps playing the Ruy Lopez has been letting me down. This seems to be the case, I only win 47% of my games as opposed to 50% if I play the Scots Gambit. If I compare the  two openings I would argue that the Scots Gambit is slightly more tactical, less positional, less complex and often unbalanced. The other part of this equation is that if I play as Black my best chance of winning against 1.d4 is if I play 1. …e6 leading to the English Defense or the Dutch Defense, both of which are tactical ways of responding. If I play against 1.e4 my best results are if I play the Scandinavian which is also tactical and uncomplicated rather than positional.

But it could still be the case that the games I enjoy aren’t the games I am more likely to win. When I play 1.d4 I win 52% of my games which is better than my scores using the Scots Gambit, Scandinavian, Dutch or English. So what can I do?

Firstly, if I am to look at this statistically, I need to play many more types of openings so that I can have more data. At this point I am overwhelmingly a 1.e4 player and even within the 1.e4 range I predominantly play the Ruy or the Scots. With more data I should get a better picture of what types of games work best for me. So more 1.d4’s for me.

 

Waterloo: Flanking The French

Subduing the french

One of the frustrating aspects of the recent junior championships was the lack of notification of results and pairings. The Blitz and Problem Solving competitions took days to be announced but equally frustrating was the slow announcement of results and pairings for upcoming games.Typically pairings were posted at around 9pm, past bedtime for most, and often in a format that couldn’t be read properly. This meant that it was harder for kids to prepare.

But should kids prepare? There is an argument that says they shouldn’t, that it is their general chess knowledge that they bring to the board rather than a specific game. That preparing against opponents takes the fun out of the games and is slightly ‘mercenary’. I disagree, I believe chess games can start before the first move if you know what your opponent’s style is or what their opening preferences are. Contemplating an opponent’s style is fun, working out how you might shift the style of the game to suit your preferences is interesting. It is something that high level players do all the time and it can only improve chess skills.

At 9pm on Saturday night pairings were published for the final round. My son was still awake and I mentioned the name of his opponent and that his opponent was playing Black. “Oh no, he plays the French.” My son never plays the French defence and dislikes playing against it. His view is that Black is able to develop pieces as it attacks d4 whilst White is always on the back foot reacting.

He went to bed and I did some research. It would have been impossible to impart enough knowledge about the main lines of the French given the time we had so I looked for ways to counter the French that would lead to more open attacking play which he prefers. In the end I found a video and some games showing the Wing Gambit against the French Defense. In the morning my son watched the 20 minute video twice and clicked through 4 or 5 online games, we then went to the playing hall.

I was in raked seating some distance from the players but I was very excited to see that my son’s opponent did go for the French. My son’s body language showed that he was excited too and the game went like this.

So no win but my son enjoyed being able to drive the game in a direction he wanted and liked the confidence of he had in the opening.

Other players have played this type of game, here is one from 2002 between two 2200+ players that starts as a Sicilian – no win for white but an open attacking game.

and in 1975 a win for White, again via a Sicilian.

Australian Junior Chess Championship 2016 – Finish

Black to move and force checkmate. (Answer at the end of this article)

Forced mate

I was recently watching a chess video about dynamic play by GM Melik Chachnian who was coaching an American team in the World Youth and Cadet Championship. In it the GM reviews one of his protégés games and describes the under 12 section as the most brutal section because ‘they have no fear’. I agree – they are fearless, creative and tactical players who are improving their knowledge of positional, strategic and dynamic play. This combination, along with the chance of blundering and high emotions, makes the under twelve section seem like the Wild West – guns for hire that take no prisoners.

The under 12 open category is also the most hotly contested division of the competition with 70 players competing from every state except the Northern Territories. The players ranged in strength from mid 1700’s to players with no ratings at all, but as we know from the under 10 category (where an unrated player came 2nd) ratings can be misleading in junior competitions and every game had the potential to be won or lost.

The games started on Wednesday morning and over 5 grueling days they played 9 games, one at 10am and one at 3pm. The games were 60 minutes long per side with each move gaining a 30 second increment. Typically games lasted between one and two hours and this in itself is a big shift from the more junior divisions where play is faster. I think it is this ability to slow down that creates such improvement in this group. They are able to calculate better and further and this allows long tactical combinations to be played. The following game from the competition is a good example, it is between a NSW player as white and my son as as black.

In the end he won five games, drew two and lost two – which was a good result.

The only downside of the event was the result notification which I’ll touch on in my next post. This was a small frustration in an otherwise excellent tournament.

Australian Junior Chess Championships 2016 – Start

030
The summer holidays (December and January here) seems full of chess competitions. A couple of weeks ago the Australian and the New Zealand opens were held which for some mysterious reason occur at the same time, there have also been Blitz Championships and ‘weekenders’ here in Melbourne – if you are a chess player from the Northern hemisphere I recommend escaping the cold and travelling to Melbourne at this time.

For juniors the big event is the Australian Junior Chess Championship which this year is in Adelaide. My son and I flew from Melbourne yesterday morning and arrived at Walford Anglican Girls School where the tournament is taking place. We had arranged accommodation at the school and it was perfect for us, we each had our own air conditioned room with an en-suite and more importantly we’re about 100m from the playing hall and there are other kids around for my son to play with – and parents I know.

When we got to the school my son had the choice of joining the 2 hour Problem Solving competition or visiting museums, he was between a rock and a hard place but went for the chess problems. He also registered for the Blitz competition in the afternoon which was scheduled for 11 rounds and which was, for him, much more appealing. The playing hall is an excellent venue with raked comfortable seating for spectators and a modern feel, I think we were both impressed. Unfortunately events don’t seem to start anywhere like on time and the late starts meant that the 11 rounds of blitz was cut to 9 rounds which is a great pity because it is always in the later rounds where you end up against opponents most suited to your level of play. Most bizarrely was the fact that they ran out of time to have the prize giving. (The same delays happened last year in Canberra and we had to quit the blitz competition to get to the airport).

A day later…

Today was the first day of the competition for the under 12s and the under 14s. The under 8s and 10s finished a couple of days ago and the under 16s and 18s started last week and will end on Sunday (one game per day). My son recently turned 10 and this puts him in the under 12 section. He has 9 games to play at a rate of two per day, each game is 60 minutes long with a thirty second increment. The first game is always a wild card with the Swiss system and my son played against a fairly inexperienced player and had a straightforward victory. We then went to lunch and we are now relaxing.

Later that same day…

The results of yesterdays blitz tournament were posted on an A4 sheet on a notice board – I can’t find anything online at either the official website or on ‘chesschat’ and I’m not aware of any announcement made by the organisers to players or their families. And we still have no idea how the Problem Solving competition went.

My sons afternoon game was much tougher, he was playing the NSW under 12 champion and his game is here, he was black.

I couldn’t see the game because it was too far from me but I was very impressed by the slow pace with which he played and the focus he was showing. I’m hoping that the slower paced play that both myself and my son are doing will improve our chess.

King’s Indian

King's Indian

My son is taught by a great local chess teacher and I am lucky to be able to sit in on the classes. We finished a recent competition and before the competition the focus of the classes was on calculation. Now we are looking at openings and yesterday we went through the King’s Indian Defense. This is not an opening I enjoy because I have always felt cramped and defensive – I’ve been doing it all wrong, it can be fierce. I have always been scared of pushing any of my pawns forward in front of my King, it makes me feel exposed and weak but that attitude is changing. Recently I have been playing and posting about the Dutch Defense and the English Defense and my games as black have been much more dynamic. In both of these defenses I castle short and then throw my f pawn forward to f5 (if it is safe to do so). This ends up giving me opportunities for attack and the games are fun. This same concept works for the King’s Indian, here is a typical opening setup.

And here you need to do two things; you must prevent a Queenside attack and you must start a King’s side attack. My son played another kid and both had to start by playing this setup and then pushing their strategic ideas. What was interesting was that typically, where there was a choice of defending or attacking, attacking was the correct response.

And Kasparov repopularised it with games like this.

(See my ‘The Brahmin’ post for some King’s Indian history)

Improvement

improving

I played 2 other games in the competition. One was against a weaker player who is improving quickly, the other was against the 13 yr old opponent I lost to in my post ‘A Missed Opportunity’. This game was after my ‘Slowing Down’ game that I recently posted about and I was playing more slowly and deliberately. My annotation comes after analysing the game with my son’s chess teacher.

Later computer analysis shows this to be a good game but my moves 33 through 36 were all bad and I was lucky that black didn’t play 36. …Kg7

Of course I would have liked to have won but my opponent was rated 1580+ and my rating is at 1315 (down from my opening rating of 1370) so I felt I played well. After the game I was walking past my opponent who was playing on an iPad surrounded by his friends and he asked me ‘How I got so good?’. He was genuinely surprised that I played so well in his game and in my games against a couple of his friends. I thought ‘what a polite boy’ but I was happy with my play in the competition, I had good chances in all my games and I felt in the zone. To cap it off I came away with a cash prize for my rating group and the person giving away the prizes remarked that it was good to see an adult win! (Kids ratings are often undervalued because they improve quickly – consequently they usually win the lower rating group prizes). Hopefully I can continue to play well and start to minimise my blunders and pounce on other peoples mistakes.