Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blog Carnival!

Just a reminder that Jack Le Moine's new Chess Blog Carnival is coming up, with an entry deadline of September 1. It might be a nice way to get your work noticed and see other's chess blogging efforts that may not yet have come to your attention.

I'm going to be on vacation for a week, but I hope to post a few things during that time--if not, I'll be back with further scintillating thoughts soon. I have a number of fine chess-related blogs I need to get around to linking to, and once again, if I haven't linked to you yet, please put a comment in below to make sure I get you there on the sidebar.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pearson-C. Harrington 08.23.07 1-0

I got a win last night against Chris Harrington (here is our draw from last month) in a maneuvering game out of a slightly off-beat Nimzoindian Defense. At least, for the second game in a row I didn't play any really poor moves or blunders, just being careful and sound...on move 29 I calculate ahead to a queen ending where I'm a pawn up, and I was willing to play that for another couple of hours if necessary. I enjoy queen endings and I've had some success in winning them. But he immediately makes the fatal mistake of 32. ... Qe4, going into a losing pawn endgame. In the postmortem he said he was afraid of my Qc1+ and Qxb2, going two pawns down, but that would allow perpetual check. I would have just had to grind away, and he would have had good drawing chances. So all in all not a scintillating victory but a good, practical effort.

To view the game, paste the moves below into the pgn viewer.

White: Robert Pearson (1605)
Black: Chris Harrington (1428)
Reno CC Swiss 08.23.07
30/90, G/60
Nimzoindian Defense

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Ne2 Ne4 6. Qc2 d5 7. a3 Bxc3 8. Nxc3 Nxc3 9. Qxc3 cxd4 10. exd4 0-0 11. Bd3 Nc6 12. Be3 Qc7 13. 0-0 f5 14. cxd5 exd5 15. g3 Be6 16. Rac1 Rac8 17. b4 Qe7 18. Qd2 h6 19. Rfe1 Qf6 20. Bf1 Rf7 21. b5 Ne7 22. Bf4 Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Ng6 24. Bd6 Qd8 25. Bb4 Rc7 26. Re1 Bf7 27. Bd3 Ne7 28. Qf4 Bg6 29. Rxe7 Rxe7 30. Bxe7 Qxe7 31. Bxf5 Bxf5 32. Qxf5 Qe4 33. Qxe4 dxe4 34. f4 exf3 35. Kf2 Kf7 36. Kxf3 Ke6 37. Ke4 Kd6 38. g4 a5 39. h4 g6 40. a4 Ke6 41. h5 g5 42. b6 Kd6 43. Kf5 1-0

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Come on Over: Western States Open October 12-14, Reno NV

(NOTE: Periodically bumped to top to promote this high-quality tournament. Please scroll down for most recent posts).

8/21/07: Back to the top one more time--chessloser and possibly Wang are coming--hope you can join us!


Calling all readers of this blog, and all tournament chess players:

You are cordially invited to play in the 25th Western States Open October 12-14 in Reno. I played in the first few of these back in the 1980s and they have come a long way--from a regional event with maybe 60 players to a U.S. Championship qualifier with over 300 players and a number of Grandmasters in the Open section field.

There will also be simuls by Larry Evans or John Donaldson (Wed.) and Walter Browne (Thu.), a blitz event and a free champagne reception and lecture by GM Evans Thursday evening.

I'll be there and I will be taking Thursday afternoon off--any chess blogger or reader who shows up by then, I'll buy you a drink! If at least one other blogger shows up, I'm going to declare it a chess bloggers convention. If two or more make it we'll have a tournament!

If you're planning to play a tournament anytime soon, make it this one. There's also plenty for your wife and kids to do within walking distance of the hotel--which is very inexpensive, to boot.

Let me know if you're interested. It's going to be great chess times.

ADDENDA 07/27/07: 1) "[W]ife and kids" is not intended to preclude women players, single people or anyone else, and I hope no one takes it that way. Come one, come all, regardless of status, preference, etc. 2) You don't have to show up Thursday afternoon to get the free drink. Even if you take a bye in round one you'll get your drink Friday night, if necessary. And one for your significant other. The kids will have to make do with soda or juice.

Friday, August 17, 2007

No Game Last Night

My wife was sick so I stayed home to take care of my son, which was kind of a bummer. Not taking care of my son, that is, but missing a week. Playing my weekly tournament game is something I really look forward to, a nice break from work (though I'm lucky enough to have a job I enjoy), childcare, commuting and fixing up the house, which I would guess consume about 90 percent of my life. A real tournament chess game once a week is a treat.

Meanwhile, in other Reno Chess Club-related blogger news, Eric Shoemaker aka Pale Rider took his Club Championship Semi-final all the way to the second set of tie-break games before finally going down 3.5/4.5 against Bill Case, who was rated about 120 points higher. A good tough match. Bill Case now goes on to face defending champ Terry Alsasua in the final.

Here and there:

This BCC post has some vitriol in the comments which livens things up considerably...I mention that "We need a "Caoili" in the mix here to make it just perfect..."

We need one here, too!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Opening Study: Some Diverse Opinions, Part IV--Playing Black

(Part I, Part II, Part III)

In Part III I looked at some general principles of opening study for us 1200-2000 (USCF) players and recommended the repertoire approach, sticking to one opening for awhile, but mainly from White's point of view.

Playing the Black pieces presents somewhat different problems in preparation, but overall I would recommend a similar approach, finding a good repertoire book and staying with the lines for at least 1-2 years until you gain enough experience to get out of the opening in decent shape most of the time. As you become a stronger overall player your tastes and interests may change and your judgment will improve, and eventually you may decide to try out new systems and defenses, but as I said before I think it's wasting your time and effort if you jump around to different openings based on a loss or two. If you're playing a solid, known opening you're losing games because the opponent played better than you in that game!

Some of my own experiences in playing Black and learning various defenses might be instructive (and amusing) to relate. After my first 15-20 tournament games I had acquired several books on the openings lent to me by generous club members, and I started buying them as well. I'd been playing 1. e4 e5 as Black with decent success (considering my strength relative to my opponents) but the book How to Open a Chess Game (by 7 Grandmasters) convinced me to play the French (Portisch was the author of that section).

So I played the French (1. e4 e6) and did very poorly. Knowledge, taste, inclination--none were suited to the closed, cramped nature of the defense. I lost several games (not feeling comfortable the whole time) and abandoned the French pretty much forever (though, strangely I did beat a 1938 player rated over 300 points above me 15 years later when I transposed into the Rubinstein French without even knowing it!). Then a master at the club urged me to play the Sicilian (1. e4 c5) and I have used it on and off ever since, with various forays into the Pirc/Modern, Center Counter and back to 1. e4 e5. So until recently I haven't even taken my own advice in regard to sticking to one opening! In my defense it was usually a year or two between changes, but still...

Playing Black is hard because with White you know what your first move is going to be--you are controlling the direction of the game, at least for one move. As Black you have to consider what to play against e4, d4, c4, Nf3 and even sometimes f4, g3, b3...and it's much harder to take my recommended approach, which is designed to get in 6-10 quick moves that you know are good, saving time and energy for the middlegame. If the opponent plays 1. b3 and we have to make it all up as we go it's not very efficient, it takes time and remember, he knew what was coming and is probably prepared. So if you are not already set as Black with defenses you're comfortable with I recommend you...


There are a number of fine repertoire books for Black out there, for example John Emms' Play the Open Games as Black, the only problem being that in 224 pages Emms only manages to get you prepared for the Open Games except the Ruy Lopez, which you're going to see plenty of if you go 1.e4 e5. If 1. d4 White can avoid your Benko Gambit, Albin Countergambit, Budapest Defense etc. with the simple 2. Nf3; or he can just go 1. Nf3.

To simplify your life I can recommend a couple of approaches, the Pirc/Modern (d6, g6, Nf6, Bg7 in various orders) against 1. e4 and everything else if your willing to play the King's Indian against 1. d4, 2. c4 for White. The other way to make life simple and reach a playable middlegame is d5, e6 and probably Nf6 as your first three moves against 1. d4, c4, Nf3 or g3. This system guarantees a fair share of the center and an opportunity for quick kingside castling, both pluses for those of us below Expert level. The Pirc/Modern/King's Indian approach has worked pretty well for me over the years, though as I said above I haven't always played it against 1. e4. But I've played the KID for most of my career with pleasure and can recommend it, and say that a lot of the knowledge transfers to Pirc/Modern positions.

I've got to run right now but I wanted to get this post up for your consideration; I haven't had time to really go into opening books that I can personally recommend but I think I'll get to it soon. I promise not to call it Part V, though--this is getting ridiculous...

Friday, August 10, 2007

G. Smith-Pearson 08.09.07 1/2-1/2

When George Smith and I played just two weeks ago the result was a 17-move win for me, but last night at the Reno CC August Swiss he had White and we drew.

Comments: I played 10. ... Bxb1 to eliminate this knight so I could play a5 without fearing the knight occupying my queenside--looking back that was a pretty dumb reason to give up this bishop. On move 22 I played ...e5 and envisioned that the position that occurred in the game four moves later with just queens and opposite-colored bishops would offer me attacking chances against his king on the dark squares. It turned out that if I pushed it too much he would be the one attacking my king on the light squares...I always needed one more tempo to run him down. So a draw was a fair result.

White: George Smith (1506)
Black: Robert Pearson (1605)
Reno CC Swiss 08.09.07
30/90, G/60
Center-Counter (Scandinavian) Defense

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nxd5 4. d4 g6 5. Be2 Bg7 6. 0-0 0-0 7. c4 Nb6 8. h3 Nc6 9. Be3 Bf5 10. a3 Bxb1 11. Rxb1 a5 12. b4 axb4 13. axb4 e6 14. b5 Ne7 15. Ra1 Nf5 16. Rxa8 Qxa8 17. Qc2 Rd8 18. Rd1 Qa3 19. Rd3 Qe7 20. g4 Nxe3 21. fxe3 Nd7 22. c5 e5 23. dxe5 Nxe5 24. Nxe5 Bxe5 25. Rxd8+ Qxd8 26. c6 b6 27. Qd3 Qh4 28. e4 Bd6 29. Kg2 Bc5 30. Qg3 Qe7 31. Qf3 Qe6 32. Qd3 Bd6 33. Qf3 Qa2 34. h4 Be7 35. g5 Qe6 36. Qd3 Bd6 37. Qd5 Qe5 38. Qxe5 Bxe5 1/2-1/2

I'm pretty much stumped as to why the pgn viewer isn't working with the above text (which I typed in) after move 4, but I'll try and fix it later by importing from somewhere else...

UPDATE 8/11/07: Game score fixed, you can now paste in the pgn viewer and see the game, thanks to Ernie Hong, sharp-eyed Secretary of the Reno CC.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Opening Study: Some Diverse Opinions, Part III

(Part I, Part II)

And so, taking advantage of my sage advice you have selected a handful of unbeatable opening lines...

Just a moment.

I need to say a little more about that selection process first. Since this post is aimed at people above the beginner level (roughly 1200 USCF) I’m assuming that you already have some favorite lines that you’ve tried out against various opponents at various time controls. My opinions are meant to apply to the study of any opening but I want to emphasize that my approach is not geared toward winning the game in the opening. My experience is that while this does happen occasionally, the psychology of this approach is lousy. You play the King’s Gambit as White, or the Budapest Defense as Black let’s say, and you know a few ways for your opponent to get killed in the first ten moves—then when he doesn’t fall for any of them and you have to play a hard, long, real game of chess you get depressed, play poorly and you end up being the one on the losing end of a miniature.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the King’s Gambit or Budapest Defense or other highly tactical lines, by the way. The only thing wrong, in my view, is trying to win the game in the opening.

So here’s the money quote, and if you take nothing else away from this piece or just choose to skip the rest I hope you’ll remember this part:

The purpose of studying the opening is to, as often as possible, reach a good middlegame position without using a lot of clock time and mental effort, thus reserving your time and energy for improving that good middlegame position.

The definition of a “good middlegame position” is a position where you have at least equality, have possibilities to gain an advantage or increase the one you have, and have some understanding of those possibilities.

Okay, having gotten all of the explanations and caveats out of the way, what do we actually do increase our chances of experiencing this desirable state of affairs?

First, make a decision! A decision before you ever sit down at the board that you’re going to stick to your chosen repertoire and not get “creative” on move 3 of the Sicilian when you have already planned to play 3. d4. Remember, we want to reach a good position quickly and easily, saving our time and energy for the middlegame.

Next, get a book! There’s always a good reason to get a new chess book, right? (It could be a video or DVD, actually). Seriously, maybe you already have the one you need in your library. I’m talking about a repertoire book, not a specialist tome about one opening. I’m going to really go out on a limb here and argue that it doesn’t matter exactly which repertoire book you have or obtain, as long as you make it your own, stick to it for awhile and really get to know the lines in it. After one to two years you may decide that certain lines don’t appeal to you and replace them with different ones—but get one of these and really use it for awhile.

Early I my career, after about a year of serious tournament play, I was fortunate enough to obtain Raymond Keene and Byron Jacobs' Opening Repertoire for White, which is based on 1. d4 and provides lines against almost all the major and minor responses to that move. It gave me a base to expand from, and through experience I found out what lines I liked and what I wanted to change or update. I eventually found other ways to fight the Gruenfeld, King’s Indian and Slav for example, but I still use some of the material given there on the Nimzoindian and Queen’s Gambit today, 25 years later.

Even if we stick to one book for White and one or two for Black, most of us will not be able to memorize everything in them, especially given the limited time that we’re spending on the opening compared to learning tactics and calculation (if you're following the 80/20 Principle that I borrowed/inferred from BDK, Heisman, de la Maza etc.).

My recommendation based on a lot of experience, successes and failures, is to streamline the study of these books: First, select the openings and defenses you’re most likely to face, play over the main games or text repeatedly and fairly rapidly until you can remember them clearly for at least the first 6-10 moves (you probably know some of them already), use them in your games and then go back after each game, see where the deviation from your preparation was and if you responded well, and figure out what you’d do next time if you saw the move again. When you have time, go over the secondary lines (of course reviewing these if you see them in a game) and do the same. Over the course of a few months, even if you don’t have hours per week to study openings, this should begin to get you to decent middlegame positions in an increasing percentage of games. And if you’ll just resist the urge to change your openings for awhile you’ll increasingly get positions you understand and are comfortable with farther and farther into the game.

Let’s see a theoretical (and hopefully, amusing and entertaining) example of how this is supposed to work:

Starting from scratch, you’ve decided that 1. d4 is going to be your move for at least the next couple of years. For $1.99 on the Internet you obtain a used copy of GM Huestmena-Zeffarelovich’s Winning with 1. d4 for the Crazed Attacking Player. Your next club tournament game is in a week, so you’re not going to be memorizing the whole thing by then. Since you’re rated 1376 USCF (up from 1245 one year ago) you’re not completely unaware that the main responses to 1. d4 are d5 and Nf6, the latter move leading to the King’s Indian, Nimzoindian etc. You know you’re going to be seeing 1. … d5 plenty of times in the next few years—start there. GM H-Z gives 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd exd 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 0-0 7. Bd3 and now discusses various alternatives for Black and plans for White, saying that in his opinion White should seek to dominate the center and then KILL, KILL, KILL the Black king…

And in my opinion this is enough for a first pass! You don’t need to try and memorize all of Black’s 7th moves and so on; the branches quickly number in the thousands. The point is, you now have 7 opening moves that occur a lot in practice, a dangerous idea of how to follow up, and you get it all done during the game without taking very much time off your clock or straining to find good moves, leaving a lot more time and energy for the middlegame. Now do the same for the King’s Indian, Nimzoindian and Slav and you’re covered for perhaps 70-80 percent of your games as White.

You go into the club Wednesday and the game goes 1. d4 f5 (Hehe). You figure it out as you go and then after the game it’s back to the book, where you discover what the GM recommends. It’s an ongoing process, but I believe if you play the openings from your repertoire book for at least two years you’ll find that in 80 percent of your tournament games you can play 6-10 moves quickly and easily and reach a playable middlegame that you have some knowledge of, feeling fresh, confident and ready to go.

This post has gone on long enough—I gotta go play my tournament game at the Reno Chess Club soon! I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow. Meanwhile, the same basic principles apply for your Black repertoire, but there are some special problems there, so I’ll think about doing a Part IV from the Black point of view.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Motivational Poster

Make your own motivational posters here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pearson-N. Garingo 08.02.07 0-1

I had a good, interesting game last night with Nathaniel Garingo (2004) and even though I lost it there were some encouraging signs. After all, since this guy started coming to the club a few weeks ago he's defeated G. Fischer (1924), reigning club champ Terry Alsasua (2100) and me--and I felt like I played well, fought hard, had more stamina, in general played at a higher level than I was doing a couple of months ago.

As White in a Saemisch King's Indian I was strategically outplayed in the opening; instead of 7. d5 I've since learned that it's probably better to strongpoint d4--I'll look it up further when I can dig out a book. I knew from some study a long time ago that taking the c5 pawn doesn't lead to any advantage for White and was sure he knew that well when he played 6. ...c5. So I think he got somewhat the better of it, then at move 19 with Bc2 I'm threatening to trap his knight so I thought he'd retreat his bishop to give it a flight square; instead he initiates a sequence that wins rook+ 2 pawns for 2 knights, and after that it's just tactical blows pretty much all the way to the end. After the game he said 23. Ne4 was a strong move.

It looks to me like 35. Qb1 is the losing move, with Bc2 giving good chances to hold. There are a lot of moves in this game that I will be studying. It was an interesting battle.

Latest News: I gained 5 rating points in the last tournament so I'm no longer "floored" at 1600. Headed in the right direction...

White: Pearson, Robert (1600)
Black: Garingo, Nathaniel (2004)
Reno CC Swiss, 08.02.07
King's Indian Defense, Saemisch Variation

(paste just the moves below into the pgn viewer)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 0-0 6. Be3 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Bd3 exd5 9. cxd5 a6 10. a4 Nbd7 11. Nh3 Ne5 12. Nf2 Bd7 13. Qd2 b5 14. axb5 axb5 15. 0-0 Qb6 16. h3 Rfe8 17. b3 Rxa1 18. Rxa1 Qb7 19. Bc2 b4 20. Ne2 Nxd5 21. exd5 Nxf3+ 22. gxf3 Bxa1 23. Ne4 Qb6 24. Bf4 Bb5 25. Ng3 f5 26. Ng5 c4+ 27. Kg2 Bc3 28. Qf2 Bd4 29. Qd2 c3 30. Qc1 Bf2 31. Ne6 Ra8 32. Nxf5 gxf5 33. Bxf5 Ra2 34. Bxh7+ Kh8 35. Qb1 Qa7 36. Qg6 Bh4+ 37. Kh1 Rc1+ 0-1

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Opening Study: Some Diverse Opinions, Part II

(Part I was here)

It took me three weeks to get back to the subject but I promised Part II, and I always try to keep my blogging promises...

I had gathered some other people's opinions in Part I and now I'd like to share some of my own with you.

I'm now convinced that the vast majority of chess study time should be spent on tactical/calculation improvement (see the 80/20 Principle) but what of the time a player allots to openings? What should he or she be studying in order to get the most improvement for the time expended?

Some players like uber chess blogger Micheal Goeller have noted that they spend most of their time studying openings because that's what they enjoy. Since Michael is already a USCF Expert I think we can conclude that that's his prerogative...in the meantime, for us between say 1200 and 2000 USCF what is the most efficient method of opening study?

If we've been playing club or tournament chess at all most of us have already settled on certain systems and defenses, but in case you haven't, my first recommendation is to avoid basing your repertoire on trappy or offbeat openings. If you memorize the traps you'll get some quick wins against lower-rated players, but these openings are not of lasting value, and I think they can somewhat stunt your development. As you climb the ratings ladder you'll find fewer and fewer victims and more opponents who know the weaknesses of your chosen offbeat system. However, I see nothing wrong with gambits as such, especially with White and 1. e4. The King's, Scotch, Danish and other gambits are a fine choice if they suit you and the type of game you like, but don't adopt them because you think they'll help you learn tactics--a lot of authors have given this advice over the years, but playing the Ruy Lopez, Italian Game and or Four Knight's Game will result in plenty of tactical opportunities for both sides at the lower levels, believe me.

I mainly have in mind things like 1. g4, the Latvian Gambit as Black and so on. I strongly advise doing a little experimentation and discussion with people who know your game and then choosing one opening move (e4, d4, c4 or Nf3) for White and one mainline defense for each as Black. Plan on sticking to your choice for awhile and not switching because of a loss or two. If you're playing the Ruy Lopez or Queen's Gambit with either color I'm sorry, but you're going to have to blame any losses on your own mistakes and not on the opening!

Even if you've already invested some time in the Double Muzio or the Basmaniac Defense or whatever, there's still time to change and get back on track for your long term development.

In Part III I'm going to finally get to my opinions on how to use your opening study time...stay tuned.