In my last post, ‘Alcohol’, I noted that my game was driven by tempo, I was attacking from the beginning of the game and didn’t get much of a chance to develop pieces. It worked on that occasion because my opponent was moired and I could get away with it. But normal, considered chess, is all about manoeuvring your pieces to dominating positions and then allowing those pieces to work well in combination to drive an attack. It requires piece activity and this is the topic that my sons chess teacher is focusing on currently.
Below is game 20 of the 1990 Kasparov vs Karpov world championship match. In it Kasporov shows beautiful combinative piece play in addition to amazing calculation skills. The video above shows how many options he has for his final attack and these options exist because of his piece play.
My son is taking part in the upcoming state chess championship next weekend. His Tuesday chess club teacher is giving him exercises that he believes are the best way for kids to improve and sharpen skills, I have been doing them as well. These are calculation exercises of fairly complicated positions. The exercise starts with a move that has been played, it might be a great move (!!) or a dubious move (?!) the task is to work through the possibilities, without moving any pieces, and consider the strength of the move. It is important to keep calculating concretely as far as possible so that your assessment is as thorough as it can be. Here are four examples, I recommend working through them in your head first then jotting down the different continuations you have come up with.
Garry Kasparov vs. Dimitry Kalumov. Kasparov as white has just played Nf6
White has just played Nf6. So here we have to go through the candidate moves. The most obvious move would be to take the Knight with the pawn, what would then ensue? Is it safe (I haven’t yet tried this one)? Or do we need to move the Queen and if so to where? Are there alternatives.
And 3 more to think about.
Garry Kasparov vs. Smbat Lputian. Kasparov as black has taken a pawn with Nxe4
Garry Kasparov vs. Oleg Pavlenko. Kasparov has just taken a white Bishop with his move Bxc3
Garry Kasparov vs. Oleg Privorotsky. Kasparov as white moves Nh6
Having a good position in a game seems to me to become more important as I improve. It becomes increasingly difficult to snatch a piece for free or land an unexpected checkmate. Instead my tactics need to be more focussed on bettering my position to create opportunities. The other day I recorded the following game that was played by a couple of kids. I’ll quickly run through the it to get to a position that I thought was very interesting – a better position, with equal material, that highlighted the importance of pressing an advantage. The game went:
The game arrived at this point and each player has the same material. Despite this material equality Stockfish shows that white has a massive advantage (5+ points) with blacks best move being 24. …d4. I think it is quite valuable to study this position and to calculate through different candidate moves for both black and white. What are the best move?
I found this game fascinating because it shows how you can develop play well so that you can have a big advantage despite material equality. It also shows how carefully options must be considered to maintain any advantage. This game occurred at my Tuesday chess club and the International Master who runs it immediately spotted that 27.Rxh7 was wrong and suggested 26.Qg7 at a glance. This move maintains an advantage. If we go back to the position above
In my last post I said that I hadn’t been taught chess and that algebraic notation is like a foreign language. I reflected on this and decided that if I am to improve at chess then I need to shift my thinking, I need to learn better and one of the important things I could do would be to learn the language of chess. But how? Well I found a couple of great videos on Chess.com by a comical chess teacher called Danny Rensch. He talks about ‘Full Board Awareness’ and ‘Full Board Nirvana’. Short clips of each video are here: http://www.chess.com/video/player/achieving-full-board-awareness and here: http://www.chess.com/video/player/achieving-full-board-nirvana . (For members of Chess.com you see the full video).
The videos are not meant to teach you algebraic notation but are designed to improve visualisation skills. Nonetheless the excercises do both; they improve visualisation and teach you how to be familiar with algebraic notation.
The first excercise is to get a partner to name a square – say d3, you then have to say its colour. For me I would have to know that black is on a1, then go b white, c black, d white, 2 black, 3 white to know that d3 is white. But with training, apparently, this should be like the times tables where you don’t have to finger count, you just know (apparently). The next step is to call out the ‘twin square’, the squares that would be the same for the opposite player eg b2 would be g7, d5 would be e4 and so forth, again these should become second nature. Excercises continue and get more complicated culminating in an excercise where you have have a number of your own pieces on a board and you have to say which ones are protected and by whom, your partner moves a piece (you don’t see the board) and again you have to explain what is protected by whom – additional pieces are added until you have a web of pieces moving around that you need to visualise and explain.