Progress Report

March 30, 2009

Tomorrow I shall sacrifice a heifer to the synergies of the blogosphere! The excellent Blue Devil Knight recommended The Chunky Rook at his Confessions of a Chess Novice alongside another chess blog by the excellent Tuirgin. Tuirgin then happened to stumble upon my blog and on the Read Me! page pointed out the excellent board image capture feature (there’s a mouthful) of the AquariumDemo, which might come in handy for the gif-making. And handy it is indeed. Mighty handy in fact! Not only does it facilitate the animation process tremendously, it also offers a whole set of groovy design tools, including highlighters, arrows, blocks, you name it. I shall replace the existing gifs with aquarium gifs shortly, and would like to express my gratitude to Tuirgin for this excellent suggestion; I also thank all the commenters and visitors who stopped by today. A most excellent blogsperience, today was.

The Pawn Move Mantra

March 29, 2009


Pawn moves are the soul of the game. Pawn moves are all about space. So whenever you move a pawn, ask yourself about what happens to the space on the board, especially the three questions: Do I create outposts for my own or my opponent’s pieces? Do I open or close lines for my own or my opponent’s pieces? Do I open or close diagonals for my own or my opponent’s pieces? This is the pawn move mantra.

Conquering Open Lines with a Blockade

March 25, 2009

middlegame_openlines_012A popular piece of advice for intermediate players is to focus on tactics and therefore play open games. Open games also means open lines, and knowing how to occupy open lines with your rooks and queen. A less known tactic to achieve this is to use a minor piece as a blockade to double the rooks behind it. Source: Offene Linien by Wolfgang Uhlmann and Gerhard Schmidt.

More on the Chunky Rook Project

March 23, 2009

I’ve already posted some thoughts on the goals and ideas behind The Chunky Rook in the Read Me! section, but I figured it’s necessary to provide some more substance to the why and the how.

For starters, the project’s designed to be within my own zone of proximal development, which simply means I’m going to feature material that’s neither too easy nor too difficult for me. Also, some of the positions I’m going to post may seem utterly trivial to you, but had such an impact on me that I want to record them.

Further, I aspire to post material that has a clear achievement aim. In teaching, we distinguish between procedure aims (what you do during class) and achievement aims (the knowledge or skill you learn from the class). Similarly in chess, we can distinguish between, say, playing through a grandmaster game (a procedure aim) and knowing what to do with bishops during the opening (achievement aim). Or, to give you another example, practising tactics at Chess Tempo: solving a tactic is a procedure aim, retaining the idea or pattern so that you can spot a similar tactic in the next OTB game is an achievement aim.

Having said that, what’s the procedure and achievement aim of a typical Chunky Rook post? Well, the procedure aim, obviously, is having watched an animated gif repeatedly (and read the occasional blurb underneath). The achievement aim, on the other hand, differs for each gif, but the general achievement aim can be summed up as follows: familiarising yourself with and absorbing ideas that will help you to think about positions and decide on moves. (I’m rather fond of the term “idea”, vague as it is, because it encompasses the whole range of chess knowledge instead of cutting it up into bits, as happens when people talk about “tactics vs strategy” or “calculation vs evaluation” — necessary and useful distinctions, no doubt, but only once they’re integrated into a holistic learning approach.)

However, the gifs themselves are insufficient as procedures to master this achievement aim. They merely represent the end-product of a host of procedures (reading a chess book, post-mortem analysis, OTB experiences, hints from chess teachers or better players, video lectures, and what not) boiled down to one or two ideas. In other words, the gifs are not primarily teaching tools, but mnemonic devices meant to anchor previous learning experiences and facilitate recall once we are back at the board. Put simply, they are animated flash cards.

So now that I’ve spewed some fancy learning terminology at you, feel free to comment on the method of the Chunky Rook and let me know whether you think there’s any merit to the approach. This is an experiment, and the proof of the pudding is in my OTB performance. The moment of truth is the moment I make a (good) decision based upon an idea I retained from watching a gif, the moment I’m looking at wooden pieces on a wooden board when suddenly an animated bishop on blue squares pops into my head and I go “Oh yeah, there was that neat idea with the bishop and the rook.”

Progress Report

March 22, 2009

So I’ve posted a couple of positions. Obviously, I’m currently working on my endgame using chapter 7 from Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

I’m happy with the layout and the colour scheme. The gifs are surprisingly fun and not that difficult to make. Two questions I’m still pondering:

– How much written commentary should I include in the gifs themselves?

– How should I tag each position?

That’s it for now.

Queen versus Pawn on the Seventh (I)

March 22, 2009


Queen vs pawn on the seventh rank can be a draw if it’s a rook or bishop pawn (because the defender has a stalemate tactic). However, if the queen can reach the square in front of the pawn, the defender’s lost. Source: Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

Opposite Colour Bishops #1

March 21, 2009

endgame_oppositecolourbisho1Opposite colour bishop are notoriously drawish. Even in this position with connected passers, it’s a draw! As long as the pawns are on the same square colour as the bishop, the defender’s key ideas are to use his bishop to (a) tie the attacking king to the defence of a pawn so he can’t make progress with his king; (b) eventually sacrifice the bishop for the two pawns. If the pawns are on opposite squares, the plan is to (a) block the advance of the pawn in front with the king and (b) prevent the backward pawn from advancing with the bishop. Source: Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

The Vancura Position

March 21, 2009

endgame_lucena_rookpawn_03_The rook on the 6th rank in this setup is a draw, but Black needs to know the correct defence: the “Vancura”-position. Black’s plan in the Vancura: his rook can move away from the pawn with check and move into a position from which it is capable of both attacking the pawn and delivering infinite checks if the White king advances too far. Source: Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

Rook vs Rook Skewer

March 21, 2009

endgame_lucena_rookpawn_021A key idea White can use to help free his rook from defending the pawn. Source: Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

Unpin and Defend

March 21, 2009

middlegame_unpinanddefend_0A very simple idea, but easy to miss if you are too keen on pinning the bishop to the rook, which, by the way, is a common motif in the endgame.