Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Good Chess Blog II

The Hungarian Knight (formerly e4c5.net).

Something is wrong right now with his comments and links--but I'm sure he'll have it taken care of soon. Meanwhile, the content is excellent on its own.

Plus he linked to this little chess blog, which is always a sign of taste in all things chess!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Look Ma, I'm Studying the Endgame!

Painful admission: After over 20 years of serious chess, I'm finally, systematically studying the endgame using Fundamental Chess Endings by Muller and Lamprecht.

While I had a working knowledge of the fundamentals, acquired in bits and pieces over the years, and probably played endings about the same as the average B-player, I was doing it with a mishmash of half-remembered positions and pure calculation of variations. I decided a couple of weeks ago that part of making an upward move in the ratings would involve mastering the essentials, at minimum, so thoroughly that I could play them "with my eyes closed"--king and pawn v. king, king and pawn v. king and pawn, rook v. pawn, rook and pawn v. rook, and queen v. pawn, for starters. Also looked in on mating with bishop and knight, which was actually fun to learn and to understand the mechanism involved, even if I never have to use it.

The studying so far has already paid dividends in a couple of blitz games, one where I was a pawn ahead and was able to simplify to a pawn ending knowing it was won and why, and was then able to make the remaining moves almost instantly.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that just the amount of work I've done so far (maybe 25 of the many hundreds of positions in the book) has produced a new confidence in my play. I've got a long way to go, but I feel that I'm headed in the right direction.



Here's a position that was really surprising to me--Black to play and draw! On the surface, looks like Black's king is totally out of play, doesn't it? I leave the solution as an exercise for the reader. (Or see 2.18 in the book, if you're gonna wimp out).

(Diagram via ChessUp.net)

Monday, January 22, 2007

'Chess Psychology' From a Different Angle

A quote from a new book from one of my favorite thinkers:

We can only be afraid of what we believe we are-whatever there is in ourselves that we haven't met with understanding. If I thought you might see me as boring, for example, it would frighten me, because I haven't questioned that thought. So it's not people who frighten me, it's me that frightens me. That's my job, to frighten me, until I investigate this fear for myself. The worst that can happen is that I think you think about me what I think about myself. So I am sitting in a pool of me.

All fear is like this. It's caused by believing what you think-no more, no less. It's always the story of a future. If you want fear on purpose, get a plan. Fear is not possible when you've questioned your mind; it can be experienced only when the mind projects the story of a past into a future. The story of a past is what enables us to project a future. If we weren't attached to the story of a past, our future would be so bright, so free, that we wouldn't bother to project time. We would notice that we're already living in the future, and that it's always now.


Now, you may be asking what this has to do with the game of chess, but if you have ever played serious chess, for money or rating points, you know very well the churning emotions that are going on under the surface--surprise, shock, fear, fear of losing and looking bad before your peers, fear of blowing something that you worked hard on for hours, fear that one little mistake can cost you 'everything.'

And we all know that under these conditions it's impossible to play your best.

It seems to me that this part of chess 'psychology' has been little addressed, even in the several books I've read with the 'psych' word in the title by Krogius, Fine, Benko and others (here's a whole chess psychology bookshelf, via Chess for All Ages).

An attitude of detachment from the result, of just playing and appreciating the game, might well lead to more points in the score table than taking every move as a possible life-or-death moment.

I don't know for sure, but it's worth consideration, and I'm going to be trying it out as I get back to 'serious' chess in a few weeks at the Reno CC Class Championships. So further reports will follow...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Lighter Side of Chess

I received an intriguing email from Argentina recently, headlined Tourist Chess in Buenos Aires. While I'm sure they are well-intentioned, the tour organizers should perhaps hire someone who speaks English to communicate with the Anglo world, instead of using an web translation program...to wit:

PLAY THE CHESS AND ENJOY OF BUENOS AIRES, THE PARIS OF SOUTH AMERICA, CAPITAL WORLD-WIDE OF THE TANGO.

LAND OF MARADONA, GARDEL, FANGIO, VILAS, GINOBILI, BATISTUTA, NAJDORF, AVOIDS, PERĂ“N, “CHE ” GUEVARA, ETC.

COSMOPOLITAN CITY IN WHERE MANY EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS HAVE SETTLED DOWN THEMSELVES, IN ITS MAJORITY SPANISH AND ITALIAN.

CAPITAL OF ARGENTINA, WELL-KNOWN WORLD-WIDE BY THE TANGO, SOCCER, THE MATE, MILK CANDY, THE BEST ONE ROASTED OF MEAT OF COW AND GORGEOUS WOMEN.

I've always wanted to visit Buenos Aires, "The Paris of South America," especially for the Tango and the best one roasted meat of cow and gorgeous women. I don't know who "Avoids" is, though. And should they really be boasting about Peron and "Che"Guevara?

If I ever do get to the Buenos Aires Chess Club, I'll make sure to have some milk candy while I apply THE MATE.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some New (Here) Excellent Chess Sites

Mark Weeks does an excellent job at the About.com chess pages, and also has a fine blog in Chess for All Ages, "My place to say things about chess that I can't say in the other places where I say things about chess."

Also added Patrick's Chess for Blood, a personal chess blog packed with interesting and instructive material.

Thanks, gentlemen, for adding to the conversation.

ADDENDUM: Dennis Monokroussos is again active at The Chess Mind. Hurrah!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Year in My Chess Life

While I haven't written anything here for three weeks, I haven't been entirely idle on the chess front, my main activity being the study of my own games as part of the program in Rolf Wetzell's Chess Master...at any age. It's been a revelation, not just in learning from my mistakes, but in a way that Wetzell talked about but I hadn't really experienced before--how painful it is to really study and critique your own efforts.

I'm almost ashamed to admit how little I have done in this area in the 26 years of my tournament chess career, usually preferring to move on to the next game rather than analyze the one recently completed. Often the immediate postmortem was the only study I gave to a tournament game, and the circumstances of tournament play at the Reno Chess Club have made even that difficult over the last year. So the deeper study of six or seven games from the last six months for 1-2 hours each has been difficult--but also a revelation.

I'm now convinced, more than ever, that my understanding of chess is at least that of an 1800-1900 player (and indeed, I was once rated 1825), and perhaps equal to that of some Experts, but that I'll have to bring that understanding to bear in practical games more frequently and consistently in order to move up the ladder.

I'll be returning to tournament play in the city class championships in about four weeks, and we'll see how much my efforts ahve paid off then, in the fire of competition.

At the beginning of 2006 I set a goal of a 1700+ rating by the end of that year. I am still at my floor of 1600 as of today. I again say to the chess world (heh, I'm sure it's sitting up and taking notice!) that by the end of 2007 I will be over 1700. Now let's see if I can make good on that.