Sunday, December 29, 2013

Empire City Open 2013

I played in the open section at this year's event. I gained about 9 rating points. As usual I played memorable wins losses and draws. I like to focus on the losses because this is where I think I learn the most by analysis. This one is definitely tops in the loss column:
This is a battling draw I played. I'm especially proud of how I surrendered material to create chances in the game.
My only actual win from the tournament. (I was given a forfeit win in the first round when my opponent didn't show up):
I caused a bit of a sensation when I was leading the open section of the tournament after 2 rounds with 1 win and 1 forfeit win. The next game brought me back to earth. This is what I'm playing in the open section for. Strong opposition to uncover my positional oversights. My old time friend Rob Garcia took this picture so I can show my kids and grand kids:

The game I felt I understood the position the least in. I never got a good plan together although I managed to play without a significant error for 21 moves and stood to take an initiative with correct play: The next step is to do deep positional analysis with a write up of the critical moments and places where I went wrong. More on that in a future post. The main take-away from this tournament is that I am justified in playing in the open section of a big tournament. I'm looking forward to my next event which will likely be in about 6 months or so.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Back to the Board

After about 9 months off from competitive chess, I'm just about ready to get back into tournament play. Here's a brief summary of my chess career to now:
  • 1. Started playing chess at the University at Albany around 1996 or so. The champion of the college chess club of sorts at the time was Andrew Koenigsberg. Jorge Soto who I recently met up with again at a tournament in Long Island was also a respectable and able player. I must not forget to mention our resident veteran Bill who never gave us his last name. Bill, Andrew if you are reading this, hope you guys are well and hope you guys still enjoy chess. I'm very interested in meeting up with all of you. Jorge, it's good to be in touch again.
  • 2. I took up competitive chess around 2000 when I started playing at the Manhattan Chess Club. After many trials and tribulations I got my rating to around 1900+ but I struggled to get over 2000.
  • 3. I quit playing for a number of years.
  • 4. Around 2011 or so I got the itch to play again and through dogged determination and hard work I managed to get my rating to 2033. When I say dogged determination I mean that I studied chess about 20 hours a week for about a year. I gave up tournament chess in 2013 in order to be able to travel to London and Paris with my girlfriend. That was great I must say.
My next logical goal of course is to try and obtain a master rating. While I was confident I would manage to make it to 2000+, I am not so certain about getting to a 2200 rating. I'm going to have fun trying though and I will have the play by play here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rook Superior to 2 Minor Pieces

My experience and chess education predispose me to favor 2 minor pieces vs a rook + 2 pawns even though materially a rook + 2 pawns is material ahead. I have some bad memories of struggling just to make a draw vs James West in a Philidor Counter Gambit where White's ( my ) rook and two pawns were going nowhere vs Black's minor pieces. I believe I favor the minor pieces because using the rook effectively is harder than using the minor pieces effectively. I do mean to master this trade off and I was lucky to find this nice example of using the rook + pawns to win.
Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal 1974
The rooks were better here because there were no supports for White's pieces in the center, Black was ahead in development and at some key moments White's back rank weaknesses required loss of tempi. Even so the position remained unclear for much of the middle game and perhaps Karpov missed some chances to keep the position unclear for longer.
Kramnik-Smeets Some really nice technique from Kramnik.

The next example is very clear cut but it required an understanding of how the endgame would play out to trade 2 pieces for the rook and 2 pawns from a somewhat unclear middlegame.

A game in a topical line of the Botvinnik Semi-Slav where White surrenders two minor pieces for a rook and pawn. Theory considers White to be better as Black has difficulty coordinating.
Another game on the same theme with a much more complex feel Bacrot-Fressinet French Championship 2002 I will use this post to collect more examples of rook + pawns being winning vs 2 minor pieces

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Marshall U2300 Tournament

I scored a respectable 3/4 at the Marshall CC U2300 event held February 23 and 24th at the Marshall CC. I gained 20 rating points. I drew with FM Boris Privman and FM Erez Klein. My game with Boris Privman was a roller coaster ride. I will analyze that game in a separate post.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Marshall CC Saturday Game 60

I scored 2.5/4 at the Marshall Saturday G/60 on 2/16/2013. I drew the following game with Nasyr Akylbekov.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Exchange Sac Game

As I mentioned in an earlier post I'm starting to get a sense of when an exchange sacrifice could be appropriate. I believe my opponent could have played better in the later stages of this game. However, I believe my exchange sacrifice idea is correct given the situation on the board. White should be able to hold the position atleast.

I will post more examples of my games featuring a successful exchange sacrifice as they occur.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Kramnik - McShane London Chess Classic 2012

If you have not seen it yet, this is fully worth the 20 minutes of time to view:
Themes of interest to me in the game are compensation for a pawn, active pieces vs. theoretical quality ( exchange sacrifice etc. ) and pawn structure. In this game White played to damage Black's structure around the Black king and the resulting weaknesses permitted White to follow with a nice exchange sacrifice.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Alekhine - Yates Hastings 1925/1926

I recently dusted off my copy of Pawn Power in Chess by Hans Kmoch. This is one of the older volumes in my collection of chess books. I never got through reading it completely I suspect because I lacked sufficient chess understanding earlier on to digest the ideas in the book. I now find this book to be valuable not just for the ideas about how pawns should be used but also as an index to an excellent collection of master games for study.
Alekhine apparently did not consider his win vs Yates at Hastings 1925-1926 worthy enough to include in his own best games collection. ( This is not the great game Alekhine - Yates 1922 which ends with a White king march to win an exchange. ) In fact Alekhine's collection contains no games from Hastings 1925/1926. Hans Kmoch references the game as an example of how a knight is superior to a bishop when pawns are on the same color squares as the bishop.
Alekhine - Yates Hastings 1925/1926

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Active King Moves w/ Heavy Pieces

A win by GM Iturrizaga at the Gibraltar Masters 2013 featured active king moves with queens and rooks on the board. A really wild game. Black probably resigned at the end because the queen ending may be hopeless but possibly worth a try.
Iturrizaga - Sachedev
Iturrizaga plays the modern defense atleast on occasion. This is a win by him with the modern at the same tournament. I no longer play this line myself but this is a nice win with an exchange sacrifice that is not accepted to no avail. I think Black would be just fine were the sac to be accepted.
Kanep - Iturrizaga

Monday, January 28, 2013

Recent High Level Games Of Interest

Some games I recently looked at of interest to me:
Vitiugov - Swiercz Gibraltar 2013
A clear case of bishop pair domination in the ending. Earlier in the game I liked the idea of the pseudo pawn sacrifice and tactical rook exchange which left White in control.

Giri - Yifan Wijk Aan Zee 2013
A great exchange sacrifice by Yifan followed up by a complicated technical win. I'm still working out the details of the exchange sacrifice. How to continue for Black on 22. bxa4. Perhaps 22... Nc4!? or the more routine 22...Ra5

Adams - Tkachiev Gibraltar 2013
Of course anyone that plays the pirc/modern in a high level event gets my immediate and undivided attention! My only qualm with this game is the players seem to have agreed a draw with much to be decided. Certainly Magnus Carlsen would not take a draw here with either color.

Salgado - Navara Gibraltar 2013
The exchange down position I was sure would be drawn but I didn't know it would go down quite the way it did. I wonder if Black had an easier draw at the end without playing ...b6 which loosened the position a bit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tata Steel 2013

Hello all. Besides trying to stay warm, I've been following Tata Steel 2013 very closely. Lots of interesting games and excellent coverage on ICC. I dare say Tata Steel 2013 is turning into a modern day Zurich 1953.
I liked Aronian's win in round 10 especially because there are some overtones to openings I play. According to Larry Christiansen, the English Opening is one of Aronian's favorites. I need to look up some games of his.
Aronian - Hao Round 10
What I like about this game is the plan Ra1-c1-c2. I play the Botvinnik structure quite a bit with White and tend to play Rb1 mostly. Now I know to look out for this other possibility.

As for my own play I've been experimenting with exchange sacrifices. What I find is that almost any tangible positional advantage can compensate for the exchange in many types of positions. An incomplete list would be:
- Bishop pair + pawn(s) or even just an advanced passed pawn not necessarily an extra pawn - Well posted knight ( on the 6th. On the 5th with other compensation ) - A generally closed position - Piece activity. All this is probably covered in many books but it's quite different to actually try out the ideas for oneself. I may be getting away with some questionable play but the best way to get a feeling for this is to lose a few games. So far I'm doing ok. I will post some examples from my ICC games when I get a chance. Overall I'm starting to become comfortable with my handling of exchange sacrifices. I now want to start understanding other material compensation. 1. Compensation for a pawn, 2. Compensation for a piece. 3. Compensation for the queen. I'm less interested in compensation for a rook for the moment.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Instructive Rook Endgame

Hi all. Karjakin - Wang Hao from round 3 of the Wijk Aan Zee tournament is well worth reviewing for the rook endgame. I learned a lot about when and how a pawn sac in a rook endgame can be utilized. link ( must be a paid member to see it all )
Free link

The idea to play Qd6 and accept an apparently weak doubled pawn in an endgame is something I would not have considered too deeply. Now I know! I'll be on the lookout for that type of transition.

The other game of interest from round 3 of this tournament is Carlsen - Wan Wely. Disappointingly, Van Wely lost on the Black side of a King's Indian. I will need to take a deeper dive here because I suspect the Averbakh which already gives me a terrible headache will now become quite popular at the club level. Daniel King's YouTube coverage of this game.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chess Study Plan for 2013

Now that I ( finally! ) have my rating over 2000 I'm planning on playing in the open sections of major tournaments. I want to work on my openings enough that I will not end up in a passive or worse position out of the opening vs titled (FM, IM, GM ) opposition. Opening play has presented a particular challenge for me. I have difficulty rote memorizing lines. I need to get better at doing this if I'm ever to get to a master rating.

I'm going to make a concerted effort to use the opening study features of Chess Assistant to get better at it. The first challenge is to figure out how to use this feature! I've tried it a few times now and Chess Assistant already considers me something of an expert in the Pirc-Robatsch. That is not even remotely true yet. It seems the software is a bit lacking in some respects and yet this is a definite improvement to how I've been trying to learn openings thus far. I will post again on this topic in 6 months. Hopefully I will have positive feedback on this then.

Tactical play has been an especial weakness of mine. This is not to say I don't see tactics. I've actually pulled off some nice combinations in tournament games just in the last 12 months. This is more about being a level more proficient than I am now.
Focus on combinations I miss. I will work towards keeping track of the exercises I have trouble with in the numerous tactics study resources I have. I hope to build a tactics puzzle set specifically tailored to rooting out my tactical weak spots.

My minor piece endgame play needs a bit of polishing. ( My minor piece endgame play is probably a rating class lower than my general endgame ability as demonstrated quite clearly in my ICC games. Time to change that. )
Study Capablanca's Best Chess Endings ( Irving Chernev ) related to this topic and perhaps try some positions vs a computer. My goal there is just to be able to hold the position. The computer is likely much stiffer competition than any of Capablanca's opponents.

I probably need more discipline in my study than I have previously exhibited. To this end I plan to devise a study schedule. I've heard good things about this approach from a friend of mine that got good results from doing this. He is now probably a solid 2300 player although his rating is conveniently lower by a hundred points or so.
Build a study chart and ensure consistent rotation of study topics. I am lucky I have time during my commute to work on some tactical puzzles. That's about 10 hours+ per week I have potentially to study tactics. Unfortunately commute time is not the best time for other types of study. I will try my best to get other types of chess study incorporated into my travel time. Besides that 10 hours of travel, I probably have another 10 hours per week for study + play. I tend to waste a lot of that time on ICC. I will cut back a bit on play and dedicate more time to working on openings etc.

I think I can measure my progress by playing in tournaments. I will play in a few single day events between now and mid-summer. I hope to play in atleast 2 full weekend events during the second half of the year.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cheating Scandal at the Zadar Open

KingsCrusher video analysis
From my experience at tournaments I conclude that a large swath of 1700-1900 players take computer moves on every move during the opening and then atleast look at the analysis score of a computer thereafter. There are honest players out there and I want to find you all. I want to organize tournaments just for you. No prize money. Just chess and fun with like minded friends.
I'm concerned for the future of chess and what it means to be a chess player. I refuse to let chess player be synonymous with cheater.

My plan is to get my tournament director certification and then find a convenient hall to rent out to run a tournament at. I will cover the cost of the hall rental myself. Entry fee is just the rating fee and any donation to defray cost of the hall rental. $5 per player would be greatly appreciated but not required. I would hope I can find 20 or 30 players who are interested enough and care about an honest game and commit to playing an honest game to make this feasible. No cash prizes but perhaps some small gifts to the winners.
Players will be required to discuss their games and their ideas behind moves played. I think this type of post mortem is a great way to improve, builds camaraderie and decreases the likelihood of engine use. I hope to introduce an arbitration scheme which all players would agree to in the event cheating is suspected.
An analysis session will follow immediately after each game. I have not worked out the specifics of how this would work but it ought to be open to all participants of the tournament
All games played will be kept on file in a database which will be available to all tournament participants for future reference and study.
Now to address the Zadar issue specifically: I looked at the KingsCrusher video and another analysis by FM Lilov also on YouTube. Of course nothing is conclusive since no specific method of transmitting moves has been discovered. I do find it difficult to give the player in question at the Zadar open the benefit of the doubt. Yet I have to restrain myself and hear more from that player directly. If he has an ingenious training method that can make me play an honest game at GM strength consistently I'm all too ready to sign up.
I hope to have my tournaments up and running not later than summer 2013.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Exchange Sacrifice

I've heard that Tigran Petrosian developed the theory of the positional exchange sacrifice. Here's an exchange sacrifice by Petrosian that I think is in-between purely positional and tactical:
Petrosian - Estrin Moscow 1968
What I like about this game is that it seems the exchange sacrifice wins immediately but a series of semi-quiet moves follow the exchange sacrifice which leads to a dominating position for White. Another point about this game is that I play a similar opening with White and have some hope of pulling off something similar in my own games!
Here's another game I'm very impressed with although it's not strictly an exchange sacrifice game. The idea of surrendering material to recompose a damaged pawn structure is not something I've seen before:
Anand - Wang Hao Wijk Aan Zee 2011
This game was covered quite well by Daniel King and KingsCrusher on YouTube. Search for Anand Wang Hao on YouTube to find the videos.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Endgame Practice

Korchnoi (Black) resigned in the following position vs Petrosian (White). Given what I know of Korchnoi this position must be absolutely crushingly strong for White. Looking at the diagram I do not sense that. If there's a winning tactic here It is not obvious at all to me.

It is White to move. If I had this position as White vs anyone I'm confident Black would not resign. Not remotely. My goal is to find a convincing continuation here. I'm doing all analysis from this position without moving the pieces and certainly without the aid of a silicon beast. I will post my answer within a week.
Answer: My variations are now in the diagram. What this exercise showed me is that I really should try and look for a better move after finding a good one. In this case 1. Qg4 is stronger than 1. Qe4 although both moves and possibly others are winning.

Endgame Idea in a Closed Position:

A nice game by Spassky. I am not sure how to continue after 2...Qd6 though. I will analyze and post my answer within a week.
3. Qxd6 Nxd6 4. e5 and here if Nxc4 5. bxc4 b3 6. Be4+ is a key point and White is winning. White will follow up with Nf5 pressuring the h6 pawn. Seems easy enough when its just 3 moves away but Spassky must have considered that when he sacrificed the piece.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beyond 2000

Happy New Year everyone. My chess goal for 2012 was to reach 2000 and I did just barely achieve that by obtaining a respectable result in the U2200 section at the Empire City Open.
I cannot say I have a rating goal for 2013. As I told FM Nathan Resika I'm going to take a bit of time off from competitive chess and enjoy being a 2000 player for a bit before considering making an active push to obtain a master rating. I do not see myself playing in as many tournaments this year although I certainly hope to play in at least 2 major events for the year.
My chess goal for the year is more social. I feel strongly that chess is a solution to violence by youth in America and I second all the key points of Jim West's open letter to the VP. I want to become more involved in a volunteer capacity with promoting chess. I hope to obtain a tournament director certification and perhaps even run a tournament or two this year. Numerically, my goal is to teach chess to 5 people who currently do not play chess.
This is not to say that I will not be working on my game. I want to improve my endgame technique in 2013 and become better with tactical play.
This is a nice rook ending I found:

In addition to studying exchange sacrifices I hope to look into more rook endings such as the above. Good luck to everyone with their chess goals for the year.