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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Last Blog Entry?

After years of study and two years of blogging about my chess activities, I am forced to recognize that my chess skills are not improving.  If anything they are declining.

Thus I will be taking a break from all chess activity.  Maybe this will result in a renewed interest and motivation.  At this time, I simply don’t know.

I will be 70 this fall.  Maybe you cannot teach old dogs new tricks.

Thanks to all my loyal readers and in particular those readers who took the time and effort to comment on my entries.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Colle Koltanowski, center push and K-side attack

Today’s blog entry is an online game. I am expanding my opening repetroire and wanted something that would not require too much study time. The Colle seems to fit the bill. I have been practicing with the Colle, both online and with my daily chess studies. This game is an example of the potential power of the Colle.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Queen’s Indian Defense, practice game

Today’s blog entry is from my daily practice regimen. Black is the Phalanx chess engine set to play at 1300. At this level, Black plays tactically, but does not make elementary blunders (like leaving a piece en prise). The disconcerting part of playing this opponent is that Black moves within seconds. This triggers an impulse to reply at the same speed.

The practice games permit work on my thought process, tactical play and opening repertoire. My intent is to solidify my game and gradually increase Phalanx’s ELO. Black’s 2nd move in today’s game was not a line that I had previously studied, so it presented an opportunity to research and chose an offense compatible with my other White lines.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pirc Defense (2), sojourn for now

Today’s blog entry is from this week’s club tournament. With a low turnout, I was paired against another club regular who is known for solid play. He opened with e4 and I responded with the moves which normally transpose into my trusty Philidor. We jockeyed for position for 16 moves, him on the k-side and me in the center.

The game became tactical with an attack against my castled position. He left a weakness in the center, but I did not see it as I was concentrating on the area of the board surrounding my King. After exchanging pieces, the position was almost even. I offered and he accepted a draw instead of continuing the fight.

This game highlights what I have perceived over the last year or so. My game is deteriorating in many areas. It has become obvious that my game cannot be fixed over-the-board, so I intend to take a break from rated play and concentrate on improving my game. Future game posts will likely be from online and practice games.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Queen’s Pawn Opening, Sacrificing the Queen

Today’s blog entry is from online games. The first game has a tactical tie-up which allows me to make a winning Queen sacrifice as part of a 5-move combination. 

The second game is a 5-move checkmate, self-explanatory.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bird’s Opening (9), trading endgame errors

Today’s blog entry is from round 3 of the second Lowry GP. The game is played with the clock set to 65 minutes. Both of us had won the games in rounds 1 & 2, so this game would decide the tournament. I opened with my usual Bird and Black took me out of book early.

We fought evenly for 30 moves before my game started deteriorating. As we moved into a complex endgame, we both made mistakes, but none of them would give me a winning opportunity. My resignation was prompted by the impending promotion of Black’s last pawn.

The two charts below detail the game.  The first covering the first half of the game, the second covering the whole game.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pirc Defense, an endgame gift

Today’s blog entry is from round 2 of the second Lowry GP. I was setting up for my favorite Hanham Philidor, but White moved out of book early.

White had a chance to exchange Queens and ruin Black’s castling, but he declined at a cost of a pawn and an IQP. The game ended when White traded into an obviously losing endgame.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bird’s Opening (8), better than last game

Today’s blog entry is from round 5 of the chess club’s current tournament. After last week’s embarrassing loss, I was determined to pay attention throughout the game.

Black made an early mistake leading to the loss of a pawn and destruction of his Q-side pawn structure. The game plan was simplified to carefully exchanging pieces and enter what looked to be a winning endgame. 

During the ensuing battle, Black’s Knight got stranded in enemy territory causing its loss and with it any chance of salvaging the game.  The game ended with a resignation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Old Indian (4), how not to play chess

Today’s blog entry is from round 4 of the chess club’s current tournament. My mistakes cover the opening, middlegame and endgame. My opponent was rated well below me and I tried not to take him lightly. 

Carelessness in the opening resulted in the loss of a pawn and a destroyed Q-side pawn structure. I tried to kick White’s Queen from my territory. Instead I should have ignored it and played on the K-side where his Queen would be out of play. When playing from behind, create complications.

In the middlegame, White traded Knights to get a passed d-pawn, which now dominates the game. Later, I chose to keep the blockading Bishop instead of a Rook. I would have been better off losing the Bishop and the c-pawn it was guarding. I was worried about the safety of my Rook that was in enemy territory, but it could have been easily protected at b4.

The endgame provided an opportunity to salvage the game. By that time I was in a strictly defensive mode. An important lesson here is to keep looking for opportunities to salvage the game, not just defend. My play in this area is what most disappointed me about the game.

Two charts are provided below. The first is to magnify the opening. The second is to view the entire game.     

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bird’s Opening (7), opponent’s first USCF game.

Today’s blog entry is from round 1 of the second Lowry Grand Prix tournament. The clock is G65 with 3 second delay. My opponent was the Dad of a scholastic player.  His previous chess experience was mainly online.  My philosophy is to never take any opponent lightly.

He must have been playing blitz as he moved rapidly throughout the game. The game was challenging and presented some moves and ideas that I had not seen at the club.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Philidor Defense (17), exposing the king

Today’s blog entry is from round 3 of my chess club’s weekly tournament. The game is G75 with a 30 second increment. White opened with e4 and I defended with my favorite Philidor Hanham. On White’s 6th move he captures my e5-pawn, which immediately equalizes for Black.

White breaks a pin of his Queen by moving pawns to h3 and g4. Black cannot resist the opportunity to open the castled position by trading a Knight for 2 pawns. Later, Black opens the f-file and establishes a winning battery.

White is now down 2 pawns and significantly behind on the clock (Black has 35 minutes and White has 2). Instead of playing murky tactics, Black elects to not trade pieces, planning on exchanging the time advantage into a material advantage. White resigned to end the game.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Philidor Defense (16), advanced pawn

Today’s blog entry is from round 2 of my chess club’s weekly tournament. White opened with e4 and I defended with my favorite Philidor Hanham. On White’s 5th move he advanced the d4-pawn which created a weakness within his central pawns. The next several moves had Black advancing his Q-side while threatening the d-pawn.

On move 21, White thought that a K-side attack was possible and more interesting than the Q-side/center positioning battle. Houdini calculates that it was more advantageous to immediately take the attacking Bishop, but my analysis was lengthy and the result still murky and I settled for a safe Rook move ... seeing that White could not make headway in his attack. When White pursued his attack, I gained significant material, then proceeded to remove all his attacking options, and got a resignation.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Indian Defense, out of book early

Today’s blog entry is from an online turn-based tournament game. My opponent sacrificed a Bishop to initiate an K-sides attack. He had no advantage that would justify this attack. After fending off the attack, Black initiated an attack of his own. With the White pieces so poorly placed after trying to attack, the game did not last long.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bird’s Opening (6), trading into a draw

Today’s blog entry is from round 1 of our chess club’s weekly tournament. I trotted out my Bird’s Opening and when my opponent immediately went out of book, we started playing chess. We maneuvered, each looking for a weakness to attack. When none appeared and our piece count was down, he offered and I accepted a draw.

 Move #20 again shows how my weak calculation skills harm a game. Miscalculation of this sequence took the game from a plus score to a minus one.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Philidor Defense (15), imbalanced line

Today’s blog entry is a Chessmaster 10 game. This is the closest any opponent has come to the tricky Hanham Philidor line that leaves Black down significantly in material, but with a large lead in development. It would have been more instructional if CM would have followed book and entered the variation. Maybe next time (sigh).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Queen’s Pawn Game, early checkmate

Today’s blog entry is from an online game. This is a great way to experiment with openings. A miscalculation by my opponent gave me a material lead, so the plan was to complete development and then trade down to an endgame. During this process, I blocked both K-side and Q-side castling. While my opponent was trying to resolve that, he left a pretty mate.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Old Indian Defense (3), against an Expert

Today’s blog entry features my 5th game in our chess club’s annual championship tournament and an update on my training regiment. My opponent is rated 700 points higher, which did not give me a lot of encouragement going into the game. Fortunately, the game started with a d-pawn opening and I was able to use my favorite Old Indian Defense, a defense which many opponents are not familiar.

When my opponent left book early, I was on my own, trying to anticipate threats and positional moves. The game was even until my 17th move, which is quite good against an opponent of this caliber. This blunder was caused by failure to evaluate a response to the depth necessary. I played on, hoping for a return blunder until the game reached a position that I felt I could win if we switched sides.

The last few days have been spent re-evaluating my training schedule, taking into account the feedback from the previous blog entry and looking at how the material studied would be most beneficial.  The schedule is designed to hit the most important areas with enough emphasis to make a meaningful gain.  The morning and evening sessions are each divided into 3: 15 minutes of review or light study as a warm-up, 30 of book study and 30 of exercises.

  1. Endgame Practice - 15 minutes with Pandolfini’s Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini.  The problems are in a database and played against the Houdini chess engine. 
  2. Strategy Study – 30 minutes with I.A. Horowitz’ Point Count Chess.  This book will probably take 2 or more readings before I can continue with a more challenging book like Nimzowitsch’s My System.
  3. Tactic Problems – 30 minutes (average time) each morning to solve 10 problems on chesstempo.com with a difficulty level of 1300-1500, trying to see the entire solution before making the first move.
Evenings on game days:
  1. Games – Twice a week playing a long game, either at my local chess club (G90) or against a Chessmaster10 opponent (G45).  I also intend to participate in 6 Saturday tournaments this year (3 G65 games each tournament).
Evenings on non-game days:
  1. Analysis – 15 minutes reviewing either my games or games from Neil McDonald’s Art of Logical Thinking.  McDonald’s game collection replaced my previous choice to get move-by-move commentary.
  2. Strategy Study – 30 minutes with I.A. Horowitz’ Point Count Chess (i.e. continuing morning’s B study).
  3. Tactic Problems – 30 minutes with Dan Heisman’s Looking for Trouble.
How does this address the weaknesses shown by the Chess Exam results? 
-     Counterattack, addressed by C&G
-         Calculation, addressed by A,C&G
-         Middlegame, addressed by B,C,F&G
-         Sacrifice, not directly addressed
-         Tactics, addressed by A,C&G

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chess Exam, results and changes to study schedule

I retook the Chess Exam and Training Guide by Igor Khmelnitsky. The previous exam was ~3 years ago. The results below show the both the previous and current estimates of my status in the 12 categories measured.

10 categories had increased scores while 2 had decreases. The Opening gain is probably an illusion as only 6 of the 100 questions addressed this category.

My major concerns are the sharp decreases in Calculation and Counterattack, these scores may indicate why my Over-the-Board USCF rating is in decline. My fear is that this decline may be a by-product of aging. Stay tuned as I try to correct this.

The following is my study schedule with some changes made to address the above deficiencies:

· Endgame Practice – 15 minutes each morning going over Pandolfini’s Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini. The problems are in a database and I play the endgames against the Houdini chess engine. My current pass is to refresh the understanding of all the endgames presented. My intention is to take another pass to isolate for further review those problems which fail on the first attempt.

· Strategy Study – 20 minutes each morning reading Modern Chess Strategy by Paduk Pachman. This is the first serious attempt to completely read and understand this book and I am currently about half way through it. The examples are being played on the computer, but many of the strategies seem vague even with the examples. Many of Pachman’s variations would also benefit from a computer accuracy check. I ordered a copy of Horowitz’ Point Count Chess which is claimed to be easier to understand and, if so, will probably replace this book.

· Tactic Problems – 30 minutes (average time) each morning to solve 10 problems on chesstempo.com with a difficulty level of 1300-1500. I am trying to see the solution before making the first move (i.e. no guessing) to simulate game conditions, which should also address the Calculation weakness found in the Chess Exam. Under consideration is raising the difficulty level, but this would require either more time or less problems per day.

· Games – (a) Twice a week I am playing a long game, either at my local chess club (G90) or against a Chessmaster10 opponent (G45). On the non-game days, (b) replaying master games from The Mammoth Book of The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms and/or from Three Hundred Chess Games by Tarrasch, while trying to understand the reasons behind the moves of the winning player.

· Complex Endgames – 20 minutes each afternoon reading and replaying the problems in Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. Looking at the results of my Chess Exam, this will be replaced by the 800 problems presented in Chess Visualization Course, Book 1 General Tactics by Ian Anderson with the goal of improving my visualization and calculation skills.

· Opening Study – 10 minutes each afternoon studying my opening repertoire using Chess Positional Training. This is the only item in my daily studies that seems more work than fun, but I believe it is necessary to keep my repertoire up to date and in my current memory.

· Counterattack – 15 minutes each day solving the problems in Dan Heisman’s Looking for Trouble. Although my exam Threat results are acceptable, my recent games have suffered from missed threats. This book covers both defending against threats and counterattacking. I have read it once before in its entirety (it really helped my game) and have repeated the middlegame section.

For the readers who are wondering how I can expend 2-3 hours daily on chess, most of my morning studies and my morning physical exercises are finished prior to 8 a.m. In the evening, I find few television shows interesting enough to watch.

Comments and suggestions for improvement of the above study schedule will be appreciated.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Philidor Defense (14), strategy then tactics

Today’s game is from an online turn-based tournament. I features a few early strategic mistakes from my opponent. A greater control of space plus a rook on the 7th triggered a tactical mistake. The endgame play is interesting.

There is no score chart today.  If my readers found that feature useful, please comment and I will add them in future games.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Chessmaster Games, easy wins

Since I had a bye in the last round of my chess club’s tournament, Today's entry presents two recent games played against Chessmaster 10.  It is interesting how the games were easily won, but when I play over-the-board, my results are very disappointing.  CM's comments regarding the players and results are included.

I can only hope that the studies that I am pursuing will soon transfer to my OTB games.