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Monday, January 30, 2012

Endgame Training 6, an important technique

Another Rook and Pawn endgame from my daily practice on ChessTempo.com. These are endgames which gave me trouble during the practice. I broke them down into steps to help remember them and post them to share with my fellow chess players. The solution is the shortest as verified by the endgame database. Comments are my own.

The important technique that I wanted to share, which was a total surprise to me when I first learned it, is the ability of the white Pawn to Queen when it is attacked more than it is defended (move #10 below).

For those who wish to try this endgame training exercise, just copy and paste the following EPD into your favorite chess program:
8/R7/KP1k4/8/8/8/r7/8 w - -

My daily regimen now consists of 25 tactical problems, 5 endgame problems, 1 master game replay, 1 game against either human or computer & study of my current favorite chess book. This usually takes 2 hours/day. The important thing is to keep the regimen interesting, otherwise it is too tempting to skip portions.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stafford Gambit 4, great fun when it works

Thursday night, I got paired against a class A player who just returned to the board after a 30 year layoff. His playing skills were obviously rusty and I felt kinda bad that my gambit worked so well.

Lesson learned: This is why I switched many of my opening lines to gambit lines.

P.S. Finished reading Murray Chandler's How to Beat Your Dad at Chess and Renaud and Kahn's The Art of the Checkmate. Replaced this portion of my daily chess improvement regimen with a review of master games (see bottom of blog). I am regularly modifying the regimen to keep it fresh and interesting ... learning has got to be enjoyable to be sustained.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit 2, a lesson in pawn structure

This game features an unusual defense against the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Black offers a Knight sacrifice, but the acceptance of it destroys White's Queen-side pawn structure. When White continued with the normal pawn to f3 gambit, Black destroys the King-side pawn structure. The race is then on, with White trying to get to the endgame before Black can take advantage of the White's exposed King.

Lesson learned: Do not destroy pawn structures on both sides of the board.

P.S. Playing against the computer, but making the moves on a real board seems to solve the problem of playing quickly in response to the chess engine's fast play.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trompowsky Attack 2

You learn the most from losses. It only helps if you remember the lessons learned when you play the next game. In this Trompowsky Attack from Thursday's chess club tournament, I forgot the basics in the heat of battle.

On move #12, I made two basic mistakes: (1) Up until then I was playing with a plan. Black had already opened up his Queen-side and that left the King-side for castling. I planned on castling Queen-side and advancing the King-side pawns to break up his remaining castling option. On move #12, I stopped thinking about the plan and started looking for and playing the best move for the position. (2) Advancing the h-Pawn to h3 left me with a very inferior King-side pawn structure – an inverted V. The weak pawn structure also resulted in my f4-bishop being left unguarded and allowed Black to occupy the weak h4 square.

Lessons learned: (Opening) Until development is complete, the primary goal should be development. (Middlegame) Play with a plan, never revert to playing the ‘best’ move. Pay attention to pawn structure. (Endgame) Continue to blunder-check each and every move.

P.S. The reason for the delay in posting was to determine the root cause for the above failures and a correction method. The cause seems to be bad habits picked up from playing against my chess engine. It makes moves quickly and I respond in kind. A two-fold solution: (1) Play the practice games on a real board (using one of my nice sets) moving the real pieces as the chess engine dictates. (2) Use a report card type of game analysis summary. Some categories to be graded are development, planning, blunderchecking and pawn structure. Not sure to use A-F or VS/S/F grades yet. Anyone else have a suggestion on correction or grading categories?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Primer of Chess

This endgame position is from J.R. Capablanca's A Primer of Chess. The endgame was played against Shredder11 at full strength and with 10 seconds/move for the chess engine. The comments are paraphrased from the book's solution steps. Being on the h-file makes it more complex than other 2-pawns vs. 1-pawn endgames. For those who wish to try it for themselves: [FEN "8/6p1/7p/8/4k3/8/6KP/8 w - -"]

If any of my fellow bloggers are having difficulty posting a comment, I had the same problem ... even on my own blog. Switching to Microsoft's Internet Explorer allowed me to post a comment. So if a comment won't go through, try I.E. I hope they fix this real soon as I greatly prefer Google Chrome.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

Last Thursday, at the local chess club, I played against a young, up-and-coming opponent. He opened with a line that was very similar to the Veresov that I have been practicing. I responded with symmetrical moves to see how the game would proceed. The game was practically devoid of tactics and, although I enjoyed playing against my opponent, the game itself was boring. We finally agreed to a draw with a Rook and 4 pawns (all on the King-side) each.

I came home and thought about how I could add more spice (i.e. fun) into my White offering. My black lines had gambits in most variations and I found them enjoyable. The problem with white is how to get a gambit without offering lines that that are too deep for my poor memory (like the Ruy Lopez or the Sicillian). The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit seems to meet my criteria.

For the last few days, I have been exploring the opening lines of the BDG and thought I'd share this game against Scid vs. PC, a free chess interface/engine available online. The opponent's strength was set at 1350 and it was set to respond to 1.d4 with the Queen's pawn.

This program plays a tactical game that is very close to the type that I see OTB. Some of the tactical situations I saw and responded appropriately. Others were missed. I used the game analysis feature to generate a score graph to show where mistakes were made. The game is below for those who might consider using Scid vs. PC.

Lesson learned: The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit will be added as an option with my Queen Pawn games.

P.S. I added Scid vs. PC to my portable computer, and deleted Fritz12, the free Chessbase and ChessMaster10, but leaving Shredder11. Scid vs. PC does a lot of things nicely.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Endgame Training 5

A Rook and Pawn endgame from my daily practice on ChessTempo.com. These are endgames which gave me trouble during the practice. I broke them down into steps to help remember them and post them to share with my fellow chess players. The solution is the shortest as verified by the endgame database. Comments are my own.

In the practice, I had got the first move correctly, but moved Ra1 with the idea of Rh1. This was the right idea but didn't have the tempo saving of Rg7+.

Yesterday I had decided to review Pandolfini's Endgame Course. A large percentage of the daily puzzles have been Rook and Pawn vs. Rook endgames, which Pandolfini covers well. The idea for solving today's puzzle is the same as Pandolfini's Endgame #198.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Endgame Training 4

This is a 2-Rooks vs. 1-Rook puzzle from my daily practice. Rather than just memorizing the moves of the solution, the solution is explained by steps. When the reasons behind each phase of the solution are known, the knowledge can be applied to similar situations. The solution is the shortest as verified by the endgame database. Comments are my own.

P.S. When Wilhelm Steinitz was asked how he could give Rook odds to a particular opponent, he replied “It is not I who gives him a Rook. Look at his games and you will see that he never moves his Queen’s Rook and Queen’s Knight. He is conceding me a Knight.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Veresov Attack 3

Lost again. I entered the game full of confidence that my intense studies during the last 3 months would pay some dividends. I was paired against our club’s young lion, the 'most improved' trophy winner in 2010 & 2011 who had a 380 rating point advantage.

My clock usage was fair with 25 moves/46 minutes in a G90 game. Other areas of the game were not so good. This variation of the Veresov has promise.

Lessons learned: (1) Complete development before initiating complications. (2) Early castling is important for King safety. (3) Thoroughly examine the opponents threats, especially in the heat of battle. (4) Look for Checks, Captures & Threats, in that order.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Endgame Training 3

This is an endgame puzzle presented to me during my daily practice. I thought it was worth analyzing the required moves in depth. The position and White's first move was given in the puzzle. The moves were assisted by the endgame database. Comments are my own.

People who don't believe in magic haven't seen enough chess endgames.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stafford Gambit 3

This is an online game. My opponent accepted the Stafford Gambit, an opening that I normally play. Black kept the initiative throughout the game and White finally succumbed to the pressure.

Lesson learned: Postmortem review of games can be enlightening, especially when you are likely to play a similar line in the future.

P.S. Beginning on Aug 20th, I have done 3,350 tactical problems. Beginning on Sept 7th, 580 endgame studies. The new year is commencing with a breakthrough - a 1501 USCF rating. Stay tuned as I try for Class B!