Monday, February 27, 2006

Games Posted

My games against Soltani and Reyes, mentioned below, are now posted on the Reno CC site. Click on Game Archive and scroll down near the bottom of the list to conveniently play through them.

A Great Training Tool

I highly recommend the Chess Tactics Server (CTS). I've been using it since last week whenever I have a few spare minutes. The great thing about it is the rating system and the running clock--motivational tools that aren't there when you're just looking at diagrams and trying to solve them.

I don't get into time pressure very often these days, but I think that this practice would also help in finding the right moves in those circumstances, as well. With the demand to solve the easier problems on CTS within 6-10 seconds comes a useful concentration on the important points in the position.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Win and a Rating Advance

I won last night as black against J. Mann, who was officially rated 1533, but whose results in the January Swiss had vaulted him to 1602 after that tournament. So with two points in three games in this February Swiss against opposition averaging 1644 I stand to pick up around 18-20 rating points. Moving toward the goal...

[Event "February Swiss"][Site "Reno CC"][Date "2006.02.23"][Round "4"][White "J. Mann (1602)"][Black "R. Pearson (1600)"][Result "0-1"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. e3 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 c5 7. Nf3
{7. d5 seems to me to give better chances for an edge.}
7... cxd4 8. exd4 Nc6 9.d5 Ne5 10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. O-O Bf5
{Looking in John Watson's book The Unconventional King's Indian I see that this is a standard move in similar positions. I was just being agressive...}
12. Bd3 e4 13. Bc2
{(?!) Back to e2 was probably better.}
13... Qc7 14. Bxf6 Bxf6 15. Qe2
{In the postmortem he said he thought he won a pawn after this. But by now I was focused on his King.}
15... Be5 16. g3?
{16. h3 must be better. After this move he's just reacting.}
16... Bh3 17. Rfe1 f5 18. Rad1?! Bg4
{I spent 15 minutes deciding on this or f4, which will still be there next move.}
19. Qf1 f4 20. Rc1?
{I wasn't about to give up the attack for a mere exchange. Now comes the fun part!}
20... fxg3 21. hxg3 Bxg3 22. Nxe4 Bh2+ 23. Kg2 Bf3+ 24. Kh3 Qf4 25. Ng5
{If Ng3, 25. ... Bxg3 26. fg Bg4+ 27. Kg2 Qd2+ Re2 Rxf1 wins. But now it's mate.}
25... Qxg5 26. Kxh2 Rf4 27. Qh3 Rh4 28. Rg1 Qe5+ 29. Rg3 Rxh3+ 30. Kxh3 Qh5# 0-1

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pearson - Reyes Tournament Game

I've been trying out ChessPad to post games here. The only problem seems to be that I can paste the PGN game score in, but I can't seem to get the diagrams to show up here. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong???
Anyway, for the record here's the game score from Rd. 2. Comments welcome!

R. Pearson (1600) - E. Reyes (1876)
[Event "February Swiss"][Site "Reno Chess Club"][Date "02.09.2005"][Round "2"][White "R. Pearson (1600)"][Black "E. Reyes (1876)"][Result "0-1"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. Be2 d6 6. f4 b6?! 7. Nf3 Bb7 8. d5 Nbd7 9. Be3 e5 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. b4 Qe7 12. a3 h6 13. Nd2 a5 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15.Nb5 Ne8 16. Nb3 Ra8 17. Qd2 Kh7 18. O-O Ba6 19. Rf3 (A defining moment. I thought about going over to a queenside attack, but was attracted to the idea of getting at his king. But he has enough pieces there to defend.) 19... Bxb5 20. cxb5 Nef6 21. Rh3 Ng8 22. g4 Ndf6 23. Bf3 Rxa3 24. Rxa3 Qxa3 25.Nc1 Ra8 26. g5 Nd7 27. Bg4 (With visions of a discovery on the Queen) 27... Nc5 28. gxh6 Bf8 29. Bd4 Qa4 30. Bxe5 Qxe4 31. Qf4 Qxf4 32. Bxf4 Ra1 33. Kg2 f5 34.Be2 Bd6 35. Bg5 Ne4 36. Be3 Ngf6 37. Bc4 f4 38. Bd4 Rxc1 39. Bd3 Be7 40. Rf3 g5? 41. h4?? (Bxf6 wins back the piece, but now it's all over.) 41... Kxh6 42.hxg5+ Kxg5 43. Be5 Bd6 44. Bb2 Rc5 45. Bxf6+ Nxf6 46. Rf1 Nxd5 47. Be2 Ne3+ 48.Kh3 Nxf1 0-1

The Role of Mental Toughness

I think the role of mental toughness, the stubborn refusal to give in to fatigue, disgust or despair, is an underrated part of one's chess results. It's an entirely different subject than chess ability, for any given player may have a lot of one and not much of the other.

Every tournament player in history, right up to world champion, has had the experience of getting a 'won game' and having the 'win' slip away because the opponent stubbornly played the best defense, move after move, until finally the 'win' became a draw or loss in the tournament table. If you study the games the greatest players you'll see how rarely they go down without a hard fight after getting a bad position.

Below that exalted level, I've noticed that most players are unable to 'usefully forget' how the position on the board came about and just play it to the best of their ability. If they made mistakes earlier they find it hard not to let the regret creep in and cause further error; if they've outplayed the opponent they find it hard not to celebrate their good position in advance of the actual resignation...

I have personally been guilty of all these mental errors at one time or another, but I'm striving now to do better, and not to let the current trend at some moment or the other during the game throw me off too much. As I post games and results here I'll try to comment on this aspect and see if I'm succeeding.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Last Week's Tournament Game

I defeated M. Soltani (1456) last Thursday night in an interesting ending. He unhesitatingly played the Exchange King's Indian as White, and after exchanging down to one black-square bishop each in a position where he had a couple of weak pawns, I thought I was going to gain a pawn. Instead, he lashed out with a pawn advance that would have won for him had I chosen the wrong way--but I saw a manuever that forced a trade of Bishops with a winning pawn ending for me.

I would like to post the game scores, but just putting the raw moves up doesn't seem very interesting on a website. I forgot to bring the score of my game with E. Reyes from the week before to the club, so it's not been posted yet on the Reno Chess Club game archive, but after this Thursday I'll have that taken care of and readers will have an easier time pointing out my mistakes. I hope you'll be so kind as to do so, so I can get better!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Chess Blog Links

The Sage in the Tower from Eric Shoemaker, a fellow warrior at the Reno Chess Club, and The King's Pawn from André R.

You can see some of Eric's games by clicking on 'Game Archive' at the Reno Chess Club site. Do not look at Pearson-Shoemaker, 01-12-2006, where I fall into a trap on move 6 that I've known about for 25 years. I said don't look...

Anyway, I'm sure you won't ever fall for that one, and neither will I. Again.

ADDENDUM: Also adding the Qxh7# blog. I'm now playing him at Red Hot Pawn, as well. Click the link on the right if you'd like to see the game (Stonedog - Newvictorian), as well as my other efforts there.

What's the Best Move?

Black, a strong A-player, has a chance to beat a master. What should he do?

(Don't go to the Kenilworth Club Championship game Massey-Minkov until you're sure of your answer).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Report on Last Night's Game

No time to input and post the score yet, but I lost to E. Reyes (1876) as White in an interesting Kings Indian, Four Pawns Attack. The part I'm really bummed about is that the pattern was the same as in many other games since I came back to tournament chess--I played well for the first three hours, got a very promising position, then my level of play fell off badly. I guess being woken up at 3:30 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep is not the best way to prepare.

Actually, I'm proud of the effort I made, even if the result was a zero in the score table. I never gave up and just said "to hell with it." The game lasted 46 moves and almost 4 1/2 hours, until 11:30 p.m., and I kept trying to the end, though I was one level above zombie for the last hour. I sure wish the Reno Chess Club played a lot more Game/90 minutes or something like that. But that ain't the reality. So, onward and upward. I'll get the score up as soon as I can.

UPDATE (2/11/06): I'll have the score with some notes up at the Reno Chess Club archive page next week. I haven't found a good way to post games with push button play-through using Blogger and my Mac, as yet. Maybe there isn't one.

Also, I've decided that the above sounds too much like whining...everyone has personal problems that might affect their game. From now on, we'll concentrate on the chess here. The particular circumstances of how much sleep I got and what I had for dinner will not be included. They're not really relevant. If I find something in the way of food, coffee or other preparation that helps, however, I might share it, as actually useful information.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Greatest

Speculating about what might have been, and comparing chess and chessplayers of different eras is a fun diversion within the chess world, as it is in many other games and sports. Here are some of my humble opinions. I would like to hear from readers, especially where they think I'm full of it...

Of course, the best players of today are the best players of all time--they're 'standing on the shoulders of giants,' after all. Kasparov (when he comes back?), Anand, Topalov and the other greats of today have studied and absorbed everything that came before, and used the latest discoveries in openings, training methods and psychology to improve. A more interesting comparison is how the greats of all eras stack up to the rivals of their day, and their contibutions to chess outside of just winning. Finally, today's stars still have many achievements (and disappointments) ahead--it's much easier to be sure about those players whose careers are finished. Some opinions:

The Geniuses (the 'Mozarts of chess'): Morphy, Capablanca, Tal, Fischer, Kasparov

Longest in the top group: Lasker 1894-1936

Most dominant for a period: Alekhine 1927-34, Tal 1957-60, Fischer 1967-72, Karpov 1977-82, Kasparov 1989-1995.

Greatest Overall Career: Euwe. World Champion, winner of major tournaments, author of many important books and FIDE President.

I'm ready for differing opinions. Let the discussion begin!

(And check out Chessmetrics for stats to back up your arguments).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kenilworth CC Championship

I'm enjoying the reports on this event by Michael Goeller at the fine blog The Kenilworthian (New Jersey). Very instructive annotated games.

Some decisive positions from Round 4 here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The New Era of Chess Publishing

I enjoy receiving the Chessville Weekly by email, and the most recent issue has an excellent and thorough column by Rick Kennedy reviewing two books by non-grandmasters that sound intriguing--one of them not to buy at the price asked, perhaps, but to contemplate. They exemplify a trend that we'll be seeing much more of in many fields:

You’ve played chess for years, you’ve gotten pretty good at it and you’d like to think that you have something to say to others on the subject. What do you do? Nowadays, with word processing and chess software available to anyone, with print-on-demand publishing houses readily accessible, and with the Internet awaiting your marketing efforts – you write a chess book!

Chess is a Struggle by Neil Sullivan, a FIDE 2100-range player, sounds like a book well worth a look. I hope that the new world of publishing brings out a lot more experts and masters with interesting games and thoughts to share. The days when you had to be an IM to get a look-in at a chance to publish a chess book are over!

Unorthodox Chess: Unconventional Opening Strategy for the Modern Chess Enthusiast by the pseudonymous 'Some Loser' has it's own website, and an unusual approach, to say the least:

When news about the publication of Unorthodox Chess appeared at such sites as, there were people who rushed to the author’s website and quickly decided it was so over-the-top, it had to be a hoax. How’s this for an introduction:

It's called Unorthodox Chess: Unconventional Opening Strategy for the Modern Chess Enthusiast and it's the best thing that happened to chess since the invention of the black square! It will change your game! It will change your life! It will change your future, change your past, change your entire gaming mindset so thoroughly that all your days until now will be seen as merely prelude to your moment of near-divine illumination, clouded only slightly by occasional memories of how you had once wasted so many previous years in trudging the dusty corridors of the discredited notions of a moss-backed professional establishment whose sole purpose was to deny you the intellectual riches contained in this fantastic new tome!!


Rick Kennedy makes the effort to thoroughly review this "fantastic new tome" and it sounds interesting, if over-the-top, until the reviewer reveals that, "The 'indisputable test' of Unorthodox Chess is if the one hundred plus samoleons it is going to set you back, plus the time spent thoroughly studying it..."

Yikes! Vanity publishing just isn't what it used to be. At any rate, I wanted to point out a well-done review column, and the new trends in publishing. In fact, I'm working on my first book right now, to be called The Mistakes Were There, Waiting to be Made--and I Made Them!

I'm thinking the $7.99 price point, rather the one hundred plus samoleons approach.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Son of Tom's Chess Improvement Program, and Mine

A reader comments:

Robert-Found you via the Maverick Philosopher's site, which I visit from time to time. My 12 year old son and I enjoy chess very much. I'm a tOtal amateur. If I want to help my son improve, avoid bad habits, develop good skills, is there a book I can get for him? He examines things well, understands very few of the basics (what I was able to tell him), but neither of us have gone much beyond that. However, we'd like to. What would help?


Tom, I'm flattered that you asked, though I'm certainly no expert on how best to teach a beginning player. I had to teach myself out of a book called Chess in 30 Minutes when I was 11. To get a solid grounding in chess both of you will need to combine plenty of playing with some studying. I've heard it said that to become a chessmaster you need to lose a thousand games (the number varies, depending on the source). By losing, you find out what losing moves (aka blunders) look like, and you make less and less of them as time goes on.

As for a book, a quick web search turned up this page, which says it has books and software for beginners. I don't know much about the rest of the items, but the top one caught my eye--Irving Chernev's Logical Chess, Move by Move which happens to be the first book I thought of when I read your comment. It's well worth it to learn how to read the notation, if you don't know it yet, and then play through these games, mixing study in with playing each other, local neighborhood kids, and relatives, if some are available.

If either or both of you start to like playing chess a lot, find a local chess club through the US Chess Federation (if in the USA) and start playing with the stronger players there. Join the USCF and get the magazine and play in rated tournaments.

But for now, just play for fun. If you like, get a program for the computer that you can set to a beginner level. Once you start beating it more than half the time, turn it up a notch.

Again, and above all, have fun!


And now, as promised below, I want to record my program for achieving good results and raising my rating to over 1700 by the end of 2006.

There are two components, the physical/psychological part and the chess study part.

Psycho/Physical--I'm already able to relax and concentrate at the board much better than I did 10 or 20 years ago, when a better position against a higher-rated player often caused an adrenalin rush and heart rate jump that were not conducive to continuing the good play that had got me there. Nowadays I don't get too high or low during the game. I'm in reasonably good health and condition, so these are not important factors. The biggest problem, by far, over the last couple of months has been lack of sleep due to an infant in the house...during some of my recent tournament games I had great positions until about 2.5-3 hours in, when it got to where I could barely see the pieces, much less calculate well. Not an excuse, but a reality. The best news I have to report is that the little slugger is getting older and recently has started to sleep much longer and more quietly. I'm already getting more quality sleep, and I think this will cease to be a major factor for the rest of the year. Thank you very much...

Chess Prep--I only have a few hours of study time per week, outside of my weekly 30/90, G/60 rated tournament game at the club. I am also playing what amounts to correspondence chess on the Red Hot Pawn site, usually at 3 days/move. I'm getting some good opening practice there, and have a current rating of 1646. I'm starting to play some stronger players, all of which is good. I'm going to keep this up, playing my main tournament openings whenever possible and taking the time to understand the positions before I move. One thing I haven't done enough of in the past is to play over master games, and that is going to be the second main component of my improvement program. I'm going to use my chess library and the web to find good games in my openings by the very best players and, using lunch hours, get in at least six games per week at 30-40 minutes per game. I'm also going to use spare time on the shuttle bus to do tactical puzzles whenever possible.

That's what I currently have the time and resources to do, and I'll report on progress here from time to time. I could say I wish I had 20 hours a week for chess, but it wouldn't be true; I have a beautiful family and a great job and a house that needs attention from time to time. And as much as I love chess, I wouldn't change any of that.