Thursday, May 31, 2007

What are Your Favorite Plans?

What are your favorite plans in the opening. How do you plan on tricking your opponents? It is a well placed check by the Queen on the A file. Is it taking off the B7 pawn by your white bishop. Maybe it is dropping a Knight down on C7 to fork the Queen and Rook.

I am trying to compile a list of cheapies. Those tactics that are always there for the taking, if your opponent is going to leave them for you to get. Or those things that you like to focus on in your openings. The things that you tend to work towards.

Me, I like to bring the rain of terror down on the F pawn and open up the pathways for Qh5++, Old School style.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our Training Regimen

There seems to be some lack of clarity as to what we are doing, so I am going to pass on what we are doing.

This is the summer of being a chess mom. I am going to organize, and initiate the training, even when it sucks for him. We talked about it and agreed before this started, and we both signed up for only the summer. Whether or not he wants to continue with any sort of intensity after the summer is up to him.

He had gone from a 600 player at the beginning of the year, and just before state wanted to get better. His friend in chess class had won a grade championship. Today he just broke 1000. That is pretty darned good. We are hoping to get to 1150-1200 by the end of the summer. I think he can do it.

Currently he spends 4-6 times a week doing a tactics module in PCT. Occasionally we add in some other stuff. A video, a fritz trainer, the opening traps page at chess games. He plays real chess about 3 times a month. And plays me from time to time, and sometimes a few games on playchess on my account. Though I had been playing unrated games, I got accidently rated about 1600 which means it is harder for him to scare up games he can win.

Which brings us to how we play and the last post. As black he tends to always play e5 in response to e4. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and had been playing the two knights all fine and dandy, until state when he ran into the FLA for the first time. This caused me to change the games I played against him. I used to play fairly slow, fairly conservative, knights before bishops kinda openings. Now, I play very fast types of openings, Ng5 in the two knights, and the Evans Gambit. For a couple of reasons. This gets him used to reacting to these kinds of openings, and it plays to his strengths. Up until last week, he started showing some initiative to try some things of his own in reaction to what I had been playing.

This is a good thing! I applaud it wholeheartedly. However, I also think it is important to demonstrate through play if something is truly bad.

The pointer to Damiano's defense was good. It helped me to understand the weaknesses of what he is trying, and it will let me play tougher against him.

It is also interesting from a local cultural standpoint. Where I am from is somewhat of a backwater chess-wise. There was the Sierawan explosion, but that has since petered out. And there has been a movement in the Scholastic area, from a number of different fronts, including having an independent rating service. In Sierawan's time, most gambit systems were passe. He made his way on the power of the English opening and playing based on pawn structures. It was very successful, and shaped how chess is taught and played here locally. And with little other influence, I don't think I have seen a scholastic King's Gambit, but a lot of scholastic Reti openings. Keep that in mind if you are playing in any national tourneys with people from around here.

More Later...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Good News and Help!

Well, he has done it again. He has pulled hardware in his last three tournaments, and this time, he placed in the top 8 with 3 1/2 points in the State Scholastic Open tournament. Wee haw.

Now the plea for help.

So interestingly enough, even with his loses to the Fried Liver Attack, he is compelled to play e5 as black. (He does not play open games as white). And I generally play against him either Ng5 systems against the Two Knights, or as he had discovered the Evans gambit in Giouco Piano systems.

His solution is instead of 3. ... Nf6, he has changed to f6. Now in the databases this move does not get a lot of love as white mostly wins. But his idea is to allow the white bishop room to breath on the c8-h3 diagonal. And to castle queenside, and to attack full on king side. He has no idea what to do with the gambit, so he takes it and has tried a couple of things. And what has happened is two relatively strong king side attacks, but he has all the times we have played this left his King centralized. (which actually works pretty well here).

We are 2 and 1 here, and he gets stronger each time, but there are very few external resources about his ideas, and I was wondering what you guys think, how should I take him down? What do you think the themes are for white? The game tends to go Bxb4 6.c3 Bc5 7. d4 Bb6. I suppose simplifying by taking dxe5 seems like a good idea, but really, a gambit followed by simplification that opens up the diagonal for his dark bishop against my king. Fritz likes it, but it seems antithetical, which is why I keep dismissing over the board.

Why did I teach him this game?! Why does he have his own ideas? Cripes...

More Later...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Missed it by That Much

Dang it, he let an 1800 player off the hook and he had him. Me I would have voted to give him the perpetual check. But no, my best friend wanted to kill, and got slightly disheartened. He saw it, and went for it, and just didn't get it.

Can you see the perpetual?


The game continued

... Rc8
Rd1 Rc5
Qb7 ... And ????

So sad, he had his man...

Now This is Odd

He's me. Or maybe, I am him. I don't know, maybe it is just Deja Vu.

One of the most respected documents on the Web is by Dan Heisman, and it is about Real Chess. There is a link on the sidebar to that document, and most of you have read it. If you haven't and you are here, because of your desire to do better at chess, read it.

Now, I had dismissed off hand his book, Everyone's 2nd Chessbook which I thought was a continuing rehash of the stuff on Novice Nook, his column on Much of his stuff is various different viewpoints on the same thing, but essentially is don't lose, pay attention to the rules, use time wisely, you may not have yet found the best move.

But I was playing around one day with search inside in and he specifically mentioned an event that was almost exactly the same event that had driven me to start this blog. A talented player (my best friend) gets beaten by a suprise, the fried liver attack. This happened to my son twice at state, and once at his next quad. Out of 8 games, all 3 loses were to the Fried Liver Attack. He mentions the exact same thing on page 20.

So I immediately bought the book.

Unfortunately, that book is this blog. I didn't mean for it to be. I am seriously asking questions, and writing about the difficulties of getting the appropriate education. And trying to expand it as we I go along. Almost everything in this book has either been repeated here, or mostly scheduled to be repeated here. Unfortunately, largely, it is a discussion of what the ideal book should be or contain. With some examples. It is not, as hoped, the book.

The book is well laid out. It was designed as sort of a hybrid between the dual column inscrutability of an everyman's chess book, and the Idiot's Guide. I would say that it appears like a skilled amateur with an idea laid it out, or an average pro. That said, it much better than most that I have seen in the chess book department.

Would I recommend it? I am going to give it 3 1/2 stars. It serves mostly as confirmation of what I had thought had been original rants :-), and it does give some useful stuff going forward, but much of it has or will be talked about here.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

More Later...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Opening Traps

I have a couple of books on the way. Heisman's second book of chess for everyone. I had been confused that it was mostly a rehash of Novice Nook articles, which seem to be rehashes of the don't lose mantra of Real Chess. Don't get me wrong. I think that Real Chess is Real Important. But after reading a bit deeper using the search inside feature I have sent off for a real copy. (He actually mentions the point of the talented player getting smoked in the Fried Liver Attack. I have high hopes again).

One of the things that was mentioned in his book, was the 10 most important things that is missing in the average chess player. One of those things was basic tactical issues.

I actually happen to agree with that whole heartedly, and I have actually heard that complaint said in many ways, including by the Knights.

I have found a collection of miniatures that show some of the basic tactical problems. I was doing some research on the Qa5 scenario's. And I came up with the name of the "Elephant Trap". This list of miniatures popped up. Most of you have seen these. Some may have seen this very list. But it is quite clear, that even if these specifically are familiar to you, they are very important. The themes here are the concrete reasons that many openings are as they are. They are also how many games are won, when your opponent isn't just hanging pieces.

Enjoy Opening Traps

These are being added to mine and my best friend's studies, so that we know them cold.

More Later...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Math that Refreshes

There is a huge math problem in my state. The state has been attempting to provide required math testing requirements. But they found that almost half of the kids would fail at every level, and they don't know why.

I have my suspicions.

These are two questions that were taken from my kids homework over the last month. Both required you to show your work. I am not making this up. These are from pre-printed commercial worksheets, for 3rd grade math.

1. Abdul has $43. Alia has $39. Do they have enough money buy a present for their mom?

2. Harold and his brothers are earning money over the weekend. Harold earned $6. How much money did his brothers earn?

He got the second one wrong. Apparently WTF?! was not a good answer. He turns the first one in today!

More Later...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Together We Can Get This

My best friend thanks y'all for the compliments. It was a good tournament, and I actually have some other games that are interesting as well.

However, even that short game showed some interesting things. It showed how not to play, it also showed how to take someone out, by attacking your opponent's KB2 square. Sometimes descriptive is better than algebraic. However, he made the Ne4 play, not to checkmate the opponent, but to win the exchange. It was when the mate was hanging that he took advantage.

But, I have what I hope is an interesting question. It is for me. Using the USCF rating system, and the general principle that a 300 point ELO advantage, means that you will win almost all of the time. What are the defining characteristics of the following ELO levels?


Not just titles, but what do you feel are the defining things, the things that they know. The reason they can beat the people below them, yet lose to the people above them?

I think this will help in my search. I also think this is going to be a good general question to ask others, and I will post answers as I get them in a perma-link in the sidebar.

More Later...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lest We Forget...

Thanks for the input on the Maxims. I have a lovely little railing piece (as I do), but I was interrupted slightly by my best friend.

First, he tied for first in the scholastic tournament he played in yesterday!! Wee Haw! Actually he would have won, I believe, except for some software difficulties by the director, but we made our case, lost gracefully, and took home the third overall trophy.

It will forever be a mystery why the 1st k-3 trophy is larger than the 3rd overall trophy, even though 3rd overall is worth more. The continuing mysteries of scholastic chess!

But at any rate it was his first round game. This one really stuck in my craw, especially because the player had won before. And his mom was a bit taken aback by the six move loss. And yet the player was still 2/5 for the tournament. But it does portend to why there are maxims. I think.

[Event "Out Of Season Tournament"]
[Date "2007.05.19"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Maxims?"]
[Black "MyBestFriend"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "12"]
[TimeControl "g25"]
1. a4 Nf6
2. Nf3 d5
3. Rg1 e6
4. h4 Bc5
5.Nh2 Ne4
6. f3 Bf2#

Except for move 2, every other white move should be marked at least a ?. And it was obvious that he needed some guidelines.

More Later...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Have The Maxims Changed?

Gary Kasparov is writing a book that will discuss the computer era. It was supposed to be part of his great predecessors series, and now it will apparently be a part of the revolution series. I am looking forward to it.

But one of the things that happened during the computer era, which I dropped out of chess like many people do, when forced between a life of cheeto's and a life of cheese, is that almost every opening has been revamped. Their lives re extended with new lines and visions.

This seems to be the obvious activity of being able to shush out new lines, and prove things weren't as bad as before. Back in the early 1980's nobody played the Scandy, or King's gambits. They had been busted. Trappy lines were largely ignored as being obviously unsound. Nary a gambit survived except the Queens Gambit, which everyone knew really wasn't a gambit.

I think it was the combination of the wide proliferation of chess databases, high quality engines that anyone could run, and the development of opening books that drew harsh light where the light hadn't been shown in years. But the truly odd thing... The oddest thing of all, I think. Nothing, fundamentally, has been refuted. More things have been discovered, but we don't say, well we can finally put an end to that chestnut because computers have found new ways to slide out of almost anything.

Before all we had were maxims, and the tiring eyes of grandmasters that looked at dozens of lines, and dismissed things right and left. And suprises were kept secret, and only brought out on the most important of occasions. Now the computers go tirelessly through millions of positions on everyones computers discovering the new and rehabilitating the old.

But it brings us to the question. A question that is important, because these are the rules that everyone learns right after castling and how the horsey moves, have the maxims changed?

More later...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Computers Have Changed Everything

This should be extremely obvious to the Knights. Those that use computers in one of the most breakthrough methods of education and discussion. The Blog-o-sphere.

This has happened in several ways for chess. One is that you can have all of your own games at least initially reviewed by computers of grandmaster strength. The ability to narrow your play to key decisions while the silicon monster or two is looking over you shoulder. The ability to play through positions. You are a one man cyborg, providing annotation that would have required having a band of seconds around to help.

There are a lot of options here, some free, some expensive. There is a link here on the side for a bargain version of Fritz at 19.95 for Fritz 9. There is very little difference between the Fritz 10 UI and Fritz 9, especially in annotation and exploration. The top 4 features for me are, Infinite Analysis, Add a Kibitzer, Copy and Paste, and Opening Book, I almost never auto-analyze nor blunder-check. You must make sure that after you have installed you at least visit the Playchess site, as that is how the software updates.

There is also the Winboard, or Arena option, both of which are free. Personally, and lots of Pros agree, the Chessbase UI just works better. And at 19.95 it is cheap enough that I can be wrong, and I am not going to feel to guilty. If for some reason you are here, reading this, and you do not have Fritz or something like this, just buy it. It is at least as important as the next chess book you were going to buy. It will be an important part of your chess improvement. I could have, but I am not getting any referral fees for sending you there. It is simply a bargain. And yes I did, last year. But I didn't get it for my friend after the first of the year because the price shot up over 40 bucks. But it is back down to 19.95. I think ChessBase had a pricing epiphany in March or so, and rolled back prices they had increased at the beginning of the year.

I do think it is important to have at least 2 engines for analyzing games. It helps you distinguish style from truth. Me? I have Fritz 10 and Rybka 2.3.1 running in Infinite Analysis and Add Kibitzer. When analyzing quiet positions you will often find the two engines at odds, sometimes by over a pawn or more of positional weighting. Sometimes believing one side or the other is better compared to the other. Sometimes in deep agreement. Some times with different amounts of hope. Sometimes the only winning play is something so ugly it will never be seen by a human OTB. There are many very strong free engines. And there are many very strong for-pay ones. has 2 of these.

The one year of Playchess is not to be sneezed at. The only real downside to Playchess? It is not ICC. This is like the battleground of Yahoo vs. Google. Except that these are pay sites. They each do many of the same functions, but they each do some things the other doesn't. The good news is that Playchess is free with the Fritz software, and it isn't so clear that ICC provides enough extras that you should pay for it as well , and you miss out on stuff. This will work out well if you are already a member of ICC. And if you are not a member of ICC, (I used to be), you probably should be, (but I am not).

But one of the cool things about Playchess, except getting a game in a moderated environment (less computer cheating), is the stored Radiochess shows.

This requires that you buy 200 ducats from the site, which really isn't that much money, and ducats can be earned or played for once you have them. But most people like me just buy them. The radio chess shows go for a 2 ducats each. There was a rumor that this was going to go up 5 fold or more at the beginning of the year. This would have moved the cost from an irritant, to reasonable. But you would listen to a lot less of them.

One of the truths that seems to remain useful in growing your game is to review strongly played games. A large part of this, I think, has to do with brain-programming which is central to the Knight's quest. And at a cost of less than 50 cents to do this time to time with the guidance of a talented IM educator is a seeming educational no-brainer. Andrew Martin approaches the games in such a way as to tickle the brain, and doesn't focus too much on memorization.

I have no idea how this compares to the Informant CD's or the ChessBase "magazines", but it does compare favorably to the FritzTrainer CD's.

Anybody want to swap FritzTrainers?

BTW. For Mac-heads out there. I run Fritz under Parallels, and seems to work perfectly. There is the option of VM-Ware, BootCamp, and CrossoverMac, but I have not tried any of these. Parallels and Coherence, by far satisfy my needs. The computer is fast enough that it works at a speed sufficient for my needs, and coherence, means that it looks like just another app in my system and I can freely copy and paste between the two systems.

This is not the only thing that has changed.

More Later...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So I am an Idiot

The second book that was recommended to me was Patrick Wolff's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess.

I had high hopes for the book from the recommendations and the reviews at Amazon.

And, as cranky as I am, I liked it. However...

The unfortunate thing, is that it generally is written to a lower level. This is not a bad thing though. One of the big problems in scholastic chess, is that the vast majority of kids that start chess never learn how to play chess. Every tournament at least a third of the kids don't know how to play chess, and never return again. At the state tournament there were dedicated parents that were taking there dedicated kids to the tournament, totally ignorant of the fact that their kids simply did not know how to play chess, and that they were lucky enough to beat 3 other kids that knew nothing about chess. This is just simply a tragedy for them.

Every parent, of every kid, thats starts a chess program should be given a copy of this book. It should be left around the house, and scanned and picked up from time-to-time. Some should even read it, and sometimes the kid will read it. But the point is, this is the tome, that will help move the kid from the horsey jumps to actually learning how to play chess.

I don't know if I can give a stronger recommendation, in that I immediately ordered a copy for my non-chess playing friend that wants his daughter to start playing chess.

For the knights, however, I am still looking for that next book. That thing that helps to cross the educational crevasse that exists between having learned to play chess, to some sort of expertise. Something, beyond tactics training, and playing.

There are at least couple of things that I think are helpful here in the book. First, its encyclopedic and scannable nature, means that the book can be useful for looking up things that it happens to cover. For that, it makes a good reference to keep around to add to the Internet in general.

It also has a nice section on tactics dirtier tricks which lays out things beyond simple skewers and forks. In my mythic next book this is material that would be in there.

One of the other complaints that I have seen brought up by the Knights, and I have experienced it myself, is that tactics are a lot easier to see if you know there is a tactic. Like in PCT, or in a book. Patrick has put in at least one, and one may be enough, diagrams where there are no tactics. The answer key tells you there is nothing to find here. That possibility helps increase the educational value of all the diagrams. And I think it would be a nice addition to things like PCT just to keep you honest, and help develop that additional vision of nothing's here.

So, if you are not quite a knight, or you have know someone who would like to learn how to play chess, a friend or spouse, or you have a kid that has yet to learn to play. Get them this book.

Alas, I keep hunting...

More later.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Still Looking

Well over the weekend I have received both Max Euwe's (which I found out via the other book is pronounced "U-Vay". Eall-ray) Chess Master Vs. Chess Amateur.

I also received Patrick Wolff's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess. I purchased both of these on the recommendations and readings I have done the past few weeks. I had little hope for the first and high hopes for the second. The Knightlet and I are in desperate need for education. We are at a point in our expertise, where we aren't quite sure what we don't know (I have a better idea), but are sure that we are lacking. We have the time, money and desire to focus on the task over the summer to best improve our game.

I am taking the role of Knight/Chess-mom. He is my padawan, the knightlet of the realm. Unfortunately, he gets to play more chess than I, and I am relegated to sifting the information, removing wheat from chaff, giving him the good stuff and watching him soar. He is already playing much better.

Anyways. The first book. Mr. Euwe's book. I was terrified of this book, because doesn't this have to look and read like every chess book that I read as a child some 20-30 years ago? I mean he as the world champion, I don't know, did they even have airplanes back then? Most importantly, books were only for passing information from expert to expert. Those of in actual need of an education, could only look on. Does anyone remember that really geeky guy that had all the Informants?

It was everything that I feared. My wife put it best when she claimed it was like a parody of a chess book. I actually believe that it contains good information, and probably created with the best of intentions, and my wife and I agreed, it had a really good cover.

But it is a pedagogical disaster (like the linked definition). One apparent audience is the Chess Amateur, who is insulted at every turn, and you have to be an expert to understand the material, which is of course, doesn't follow. It seems to actually be for some audience of psychology experts who are trying to understand the mind through the use of chess. Which means, for us, so much gobbledygook.

Fortunately, I was able to buy the book used, so did not suffer tremendously on cost, I sort of expected it, but I wanted to give it a fair shake. I am torn on whether I should put it back on the market, because it will probably be purchased by some chess amateur, trying to get his education on.

I will talk about the other book tomorrow.

More Later...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Friday Night Quads

This is from my best friends game last night. WTM.

Tactics and Strategy

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
- Sun Tzu 

And computers may have proven Sun wrong.

I am nearly 100 percent sure that tactics is by far where most strength is to be gained at my level. It is why I am a knight, it is why my child is a knightlet.

If you know nothing except tactics, you can avoid bad situations, and capitalize and punish your opponents mistakes. As a matter of fact you are nearly obligated to, that is why they are mistakes. If you don't punish the mistakes, the moves may become too powerful, and you may lose. In many ways this is precisely the heart of class play.

Computers are designed to play this way. Strategies are divined/implied by lack of bad things happening to you. Tactics are the computers way of punishing bad play by the opponent. It turns out if you play that way, in general, if you can look 8 moves out or (16 ply) within the time control, you will play world championship class chess. Nowadays you can buy a run of the mill desktop computer, and you can play someone the strength of a grandmaster. Unfortunately, they can't tell you why a move is being played, other than, it does the least damage and/or it inflicts the most damage.

The point of the circles, as I understand it, is to drop the wool from your eyes so you can see the tactics on the board. It does so by literally programming your brain to see them. To create a melange of positions, and do so repeatedly, to give yourself the database of possibilities to draw from as you are looking at the board. The ability to find the tactical refutations of bad plans. And to similarly avoid tactical issues.

It is of course, in general, difficult to be specific about errors. The world of errors in chess is much much larger than the world of truth. So documentation tends to be about the truth, even though, for the knights we live in a world of errors. We need not know how to parry the perfect counter strike. It is more important and more relevant to learn how to strike down our opponent.

But, I don't think it is an impossible to task to move through the Intermediate. I think that tactical puzzle study is vital to that task. We have to "see" to win. But it is also soulless and slow to come. And we know that there is more.

That more, is to understand what is happening. What are the strategies of the opening. Beyond the Opening basics that we had all have learned. In this tableau, where would I like my pieces, what is my method of prosecution. What is my opponents goal. How are they attempting to interfere with me? How am I attempting to interfere with them.

In developing candidate moves, I must find the tactics created by error, but I find joy in understanding how to prosecute the game.

It is finding this understanding, that will give me the joy going forward.

More Later

Friday, May 11, 2007

My Second Recommendation

Enough dilly-dalling, it is time for me to let you know what I think is one of the best all time documentation available for the non-expert player.

The title is the The Scandinavian the Easy Way, by IM Andrew Martin. Published by Chessbase. It sells for about 29.99 and you can find it at many places including Chessbase has a review as well.

I also ordered the ABC's of Chess Openings by IM Andrew Martin as well. As excited by the Scandinavian disk, I am horribly disappointed by the this one, so it isn't all peaches and cream.

Both of these titles use the Chess Media System. They are essentially databases of AVI files. How much you get out of them depends on how you view the material. You can open the AVI files and watch them just fine in Quicktime on a Mac. (This might be due to the fact that I have flip4mac installed. But if you are ever online you really need this to be installed anyways). But they do not have any of the board demonstrations, and since the author assumes there will be board demonstrations you get lost.

It can also run under something called Chess Reader which is available for install on the disk, so that you can see the board demonstrations as well.

But they can also be run under the Fritz Family interface. I run under here because you get the additional benefit of having the board being watched by your own personal grandmaster who is providing constant feedback. You can see the lines, the options and stop if you wish and run some of your own lines and ideas and restart.

This is, simply a fantastic way of obtaining and learning chess information. When done well. Chessbase, unfortunately doesn't always do well. But this disk is done extraordinarily well.

Andrew Martin is exceptionally good at this. He has a nice sing-song english accent and an incredibly expressive face. This allows him to keep the user interested and provide terrific emotion to his distaste and joy of various different lines. You just know when things are horrible and why things are good. He also runs the equipment very well, and at a non-fumbling speed that allows him to zip and zoom through material so you can see why something is a good idea, or a bad idea.

He often will illustrate things that other mediums would just say... Bad idea, or "a win for white". He will show you in a quick one off various traps that might lay, and why someone eventually just resigned.

He often demonstrates lines by focusing on the history of the lines and attempting to find demonstrative and yet recent games that demonstrate the point. And then he will interrupt games to show you the interesting side variations, and why the experts have gotten where they are at. This is the best version of the recommended following a master's game I have seen.

And... And THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT... He discusses the theme and means of the opening. What black is trying to do if essentially unmolested, the goals of the opening, where he is attempting to put his pieces, why his pieces are there. Then he goes over several attempts that the other has tried over time to interrupt those plans. And what happens if tries to overplay those plans.

At the end of the first viewing of the disk, which takes about three hours, you not only have an understanding of the opening, you have a deeper understanding of chess. And an aching hunger for more. This in any measure, should be what chess education is about,

Takchess had published a Scandinavian game using the same Qd3 system that is espoused on this disk. It unfortunately didn't go well for him, but as a general ol' patzer who had just watched the disk, you could just see where he had lost clarity of the opening, and reasons why it didn't go as well as it should.

If you didn't get how profound that last paragraph was. It is a very different way for the likes of me to look at a game. I don't know how a GM looks at a game, but it sounds like this. In a single 3 hour disk, Andrew Martin has provided me a framework of looking at an opening that I had always desired but couldn't express because I didn't know what to ask for.

I will get flack for this. But so what. If there was a single purchase you should make and you're a knight, get PCT. If there is a second purchase, get the Scandinavian the Easy Way. Even if you don't play the Scandinavian, it will help you with a different perspective on how to see the board during the opening.

(PS... On the recommendations of the Knights I am getting the Idiot's Guide to Chess. I have high hopes! I hope to review this by next week).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Other Gap

There is in general a second documentation gap. That is for that group of players that have just "learned" to play chess. And that can include all if us.

This group of people are dying for the helping hand. The pathway of information that will help them improve their game. You have tons and tons of literature, but it is written for grandmasters by grandmasters. It is some sort of bizarre payoff for having mastered the game.

The Silman books don't really help, nor the ; books. If the best we have to look forward to is the Chesskids website the understanding of education is just totally behind.

There is two standouts to this. Heisman's continual tirade about Real Chess. There have been about 200 articles that give slivers of information. While I understand the need to keep selling the same info, this doesn't really jibe with my need to consume the right amount of info. There needs to be about 3 well formatted articles.

The other big standout is the cornerstone to the Knights is de la Maza's 400 points in 400 days. Which gives a clear plan of work to improving your chess strength. Something that works for even those that have stalled.

There is one other work, I will talk about tomorrow.

But ultimately, there needs to be something that is written specifically for this groups understanding, that is sensitive to what they don't know and what they do, that will actually help provide a general understanding of chess. It is beyond the maxims (knights are worth 3, develop to the center, always castle). A master or grandmaster *understands* what is going on, but it seems that information is protected, or solely to be gleaned from the masters game, or from your teacher. I know this book can be written. I don't know why it isn't. But I do know it would sell a ton of copies.

More later

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Scholastic Tournaments

I cannot think of anything quite like a scholastic chess tournament. Is there any other kind of competitive event where fully half the people there have no idea what they are doing? And when they do poorly they will never return again?

It creates all sorts of interesting problems. First is for the parents of kids that are hoping that their childres will learn chess so that they can do better at math and english and stuff. And that this extra boost will generate millions of dollars in extra income in their life. And whatever they get promised. But I am pretty sure that knowing the horsey can jump over pieces and move in an "L" shape provides none of this. And these kids are exposed to a tournament experience, have their ignorance flashed in front of their small weak egos, and will never get near a chess board again, except to extract some lunch money from the school nerd.

The second group are those that know just a little about chess. This group probably will just start getting the life long benefits of chess. Especially if they continue. But for now, in their little delusional heads they think they are good at chess. When they are not even close. What they are good at is beating people that can't play chess, and barely know how to move the peices. This is such a long way from knowing how to play chess it's not even funny.

Which leads to the first basic gap in chess instruction. How to play chess. There is tons and tons of books about how to move your horsey, castling and en passent. But there is this magical gap. Between not knowing anything, and starting to understand the game. When you move from moving pieces to playing chess. This happens WAY before you can follow a game in print. Before opening knowledge can be anything but rote memorization. Where for the first time, you can *see*. For a good half of these kids that start to early, and end to early, there needs to be a book for them and their parents. A guide to that first step. That step that gets them what they want for their children. The gift of thinking and seeing. The gift of chess.

More Later.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Communication Problem

Most of the time, chess instruction is like learning how to eat dinner in a French restaraunt by reading a French dictionary. Seriously.

The very people that would find the most use for a given topic of chess instruction, are inhibited from learning it, because they simply do not have any idea how to read it yet. This is a classic communication problem. And it comes from not having well understood the needs of the reader. It is a guess by the writer and the publisher as to what they need. And a hungry readership, that is in such desperation to find the light that they will buy near anything.

Which is I suppose one of the reasons for the blog. To cut the wheat from the chaff, and hopefully discover and share through the process of learning this blasted game, what is an isn't important.

As an example, I have two DVD's from the same place authored by the same guy. One of them is by far, the single best piece of instruction I have ever purchased anywhere. More later. But the other one, goes from a series of very high level examinations of certain games, to a short lecture about how pieces work, and controlling the middle. OMG. Who is this directed at? Where is all the stuff in the middle. You know the stuff that would actually be instructional for somebody.

I have been pointed at the Euwe books. And I haven't read them yet. I have hope, maybe there is a single light in the constellation. But I am prejudiced. I have yet to read a "book" that doesn't require a primer, or is for people that have yet learned to play chess. And I also have lived through a world change. In the 80's the world of chess, had a particular notion. This was found in books that dismissed the Scandinavian like this, 1. e4 d5 2 exd5 qxd5 {now the queen is a target} 3 Nc3 Qa5 {best, but black has moved the same piece twice, has no minor pieces developed and queen is on the edge of the board. Clearly this opening has no future for black, and you should just choose other openings}. We have since found that this is all poppycock, even at the highest levels. And more importantly, this provides little information for the player that truly needs instruction.

More Later

Friday, May 4, 2007

OMG Chess!?!

Alas, scholastic chess. This unfortunately never came up in our training. We used avoidance in our training at the advice of Yasser in his openings book. He has been trained in the Reti and Pirc.

But we are now at the god stage, and with that, I can play anything. And actually his school coach has been telling him that the pirc is not so strong?!?

Ultimately, this is probably a good thing. He is ready to deal with this I think, even if in the end we go back to avoidance. But it may be avoidance with a plan. Already, we have looked at 5 ... Na5 which was not successful. And now we are looking at the Traxler 4 ... Bc5!?, and we are considering the scandanavian for avoidance. And we are also considering the elephant 2 ...d5, just to see what happens!!!

Anyways, the rest of the game!

[Event "State"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2007.04.20"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Onewhomustbebeat"]
[Black "Numberone"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C57, Fried Liver Attack"]
[Annotator "Hisbestfriend"]
[PlyCount "39"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCategory "3"]

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6
4. Ng5 d5 {Instead, the insane move of Bc5!? Which is the Traxler Attack. Which shifts the universe around}
5. exd5 Nxd5 {This move is considered bad historically, even though it seems natural, because it allows the Fried Liver Attack. But since attack is considered unsound?, it really follows Stienitz's example that the Gambit must be refuted! Other recommendation here is to play Na5 instead, which is the Morphy Position}
6. Nxf7 Kxf7
{OMG! The Fried Liver Attack}
7. Qf3+ Ke6
8. Nc3 Ncb4
9. a3 Nxc2+
10. Kd1 Nxa1 {This is all classical theory. Pretty good for a scholastic game/30 and you have never seen it before: Up a rook. But black's position is poor. But white must justify his giving up the pieces. (Rybka has this as only slightly better for black, where fritz has this -2), way over a 150cp difference!!}
11. Bxd5+ {Both Rybka and Fritz thought that Nxb5 was better}
11. ... Kd6 {Kd7 is better}
12. Nb5+ Kc5 (Cannot play Kd7 as that is mate 13. Qf5+ Ke8 14. Qf7#)
13. b4+ {The computer thinks that taking the material offered by Bxb7 is better, but the opponent is more interested in mate here. And willing to give up material to get there.}
13. ... Kxb5
14. Qd3+ {a4 is much better here, but the opponent will find it before a draw is declared}
14. ... Kb6
15. Qe3+ {Here black has one last chance he must block the check with c5. He escapes mate and keeps all the pieces. But a draw looks mighty good.}
15. ... Kb5
16. Qd3+ Kb6
17. Qe3+ Kb5 {Essentially offering a draw.}
18. a4+ {Turning down the draw offer. There is a threat of mate in 2 here. In a position like this, you can overlook the pawn hanging on b4 as both players did}
18. ... Kxa4 {The opponent sees the Mate in 2 and ends the game.}
19. Qa3+ Kb5
20. Qa5#

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Nothing to do with what's important

Winning and losing is what they are all about. It's not chess, chess is art.
- Searching for Bobby Fischer

I got to tell you, I love this movie. It is a good movie, exciting, and moves me as a parent. But more importantly, the author/screenwriter/director has done an amazing job of actually capturing many of the struggles of chess, that have nothing to do with the actual moving of the pieces.

One of the most important questions is, how do you approach the game? There can be a fundamental dichotomy between "winning and losing", and playing well. Of course this dichotomy doesn't have to exist, but it does, especially in amateur and scholastic chess.

Wild, crazy, unexpected moves. Just for the purpose of providing pressure under the clock. Playing the game to discombobulate your opponent. A psychological advantage, which in hopes turns into a win, even though fundamentally the game may be unsound.

This question, is at the heart of chess learning, and I think at the heart of the knights. There are some that just want to win. That want to beat those that have beaten them. Regardless. They are in the circles because that is a path that they think will work. It isn't because the game will be better per se. It is because this is what it takes to win. You will see an attraction to tactics because it puts the opponents on thier heels, that the pressure is exquisite and the game is fun!

Others are taking the path, because it is a part of thier game that is missing. That they know a tremendous amount about the game. Its history and its maxims. They have a difficulty in expressing themselves over the board, because they lack vision to see the tactics. To see beyond the maxims. And so they do the circles to support thier superior chess knowledge. Often it will be difficult to do the circles, because they don't understand what they are learning. And understanding is often the most important thing.

I don't know where I come down on this. I think it depends on the morning. My son, who has no idea, just mostly likes to win, and will do whatever. And the path to learning tactics, in and of itself, serves both purposes and will not make the decision for him.

I do think, that we can become better chess players by understanding the unsound, even if our only goal is to beat our opponent. Which I suppose is the lesson of Washington Park.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Agony and the Ecstasy

One of the difficulties I have in teaching my son how to play the game, is that I don't have a good enough sense of the absurd. I can't teach him unsound openings, because well they are unsound. And if I can't teach him, then how is he going to get those all to precious wins. How will he learn to beat them?

There is clearly a category of books that are missing. Andrew Martin has a wonderful style for presenting not just the moves of an opening, but the underlying themes and goals of an opening and the tricks and traps along the way. In a very clear spoon fed fashion. The spoon fed stuff, is not bad. It gives you the leg up to truly understand a position. Not to have a bunch of moves thrust at you.

OTB, what this gives you is a set of candidate moves that tend better to be correct. Because you have been shown the goals. Your queen is thematically here, as well as you knights here, and if your opponent threatens to do this, here is how to best reply.

I have learned more about openings in the few hours I have watched him, than at any other time. It truly is brilliant.

But he is a freakin' IM teaching people how to do the right thing. I want him to teach me the Traxler, the Fried Liver and the Elephant Gambit. Give me 12 hours of DVD time on this, and I will be able to instruct my son, we will be able to take on others. Every time I try the fried liver he beats me. I just feel like I am a piece down. I don't have the killer instinct to make these gambits work, or I can't see it. Ah well...

More later!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

One of the common complaints for the Knights can be summed: "Yeah, so what."

What about positions, openings, reasoning. Like I am going to be playing and a giant light will come on saying "Tactic Ahead! Sac your queen NOW!"

A young scholastic player doesn't know what he doesn't know. Just has a desire to beat the crap out of his opponent, and is willing to do whatever it takes. So no self doubt, no worries, just hook him up with the juice and he is gone.

I am a big proponent of the Knights method. It is similar to the Polgar method, and with the advent of modern computer systems it isn't just less hard, it is supercharged.

This last year, I spent a good long time looking at the computer world of chess. My job was in building professional software and dealing with UI issues. Oh my god, what is it with chess players and UI. It seems to have infected the entire category, and not a single product seems to not be infected with goofball UI. Some of it dramatically at the expense of the process, lots of it just goofy crap.

Windows is where chess products live. Good or Bad, it's just the truth. I was a switcher about 3 years ago, so I had spent a lot of time with Mac based products. Sigma is almost a decent product. I am an owner. But simply, if you are going to be serious about chess, and have access to the wealth of products you need to be running windows. Now with Parallels on my mac, I have no problem. The world is my oyster.

I have tried many of the Convekta products. Including Chess school for Beginners, and CT-Art. And they could really stand to have a giddy highschooler take a look at their design choices. And ultimately it was not very satisfying.

We are now using PCT and the boy is moving along. 240 problems a day now in his latest module, and average time of 18 seconds. He now goes into chess "letting the tactics run through him", little does he know, what he doesn't know. But he sure likes kicking the crap out of the other kids.

More later...