Arabian Mate

August 25, 2009

WordPress has been acting up by refusing to display gif-animations. I was able to fix it by removing the height/width specification from the HTML source, but since I was using the original height, anyway, I fail to see why that should have messed with the gifs in the first place. Anyhow, here for testing purposes I provide you with another mate, one of the oldest in chess history, the “Arabian Mate”. Enjoy!
middlegame_mate_arabian

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Champions Simultan in Zurich

August 23, 2009

Zurich, home to the oldest extant chess club in the world, is celebrating the club’s 200-year anniversary with a magnificent display of chess, featuring, among else, a simultaneous exhibition by 7 world champions and the Russian-turned-Swiss grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi. Each grandmaster was playing against 25 amateurs, quite a few of whom rated at 2000+. No easy feat, especially since the event took place inside the main hall of Zurich main station with hundreds of spectators huddled around the boards.

Now, it so happens that I live in the vicinity of Zurich, and of course I couldn’t miss out on watching eight chess greats  in action simultaneously! What was fascinating to observe was how the eight champions approached the simul differently and how each displayed his very own gamut of gestures, facial expressions, pace and gait. Here goes the gallery of greats:

zurich09_ponomariov

Ruslan Ponomariov, youngest world champion in history at the tender age of 18. Now at age 26, he’s still going strong, scoring an impressive 25-0 against his 25 contenders.

zurich09_anand

Viswanathan  Anand, current world champion. Perhaps the nicest chess grandmaster ever. He and Kramnik seemed like super best friends. Anand’s score: 21 wins, 4 draws.

zurich09_karpov

Anatoly “the Python” Karpov squeezing twenty-five little mice. As you can tell by the belly, some of them have already made it into the digestive tract. Karpov’s result: 17 wins, 1 loss, 7 draws.

zurich09_topalov

Topalov looked very fancy, and was also  a sweet-heart to the fans, signing tons of boards, books and pictures for the eager crowd. His game didn’t go quite so smoothly: 20 wins, 2 losses, 3 draws.

zurich09_spasski

Spasski donned a badass black suit and sunglasses upon arrival, but eventually the sweat got to him. He entertained the spectators with a running commentary on most of his games, but was reluctant to attend to the autograph hoardes in the end — understandably, I guess, after walking in circles for five hours. His result: 14 wins, 11 draws.

zurich09_kramnik

The Krammeister taking on some Swiss jailbait. I must say Kramnik’s attitude was magnificent. He was relaxed and cordial, encouraged the amateurs with soothing words and even dropped some analysis here and there. His geniality was on par with his performance: no loss, 3 draws, 22 wins. Not the least impressive because he finished his simul first, a good three (!) hours before Kasparov. Asked by the host how to explain this performance, he quipped that it’s his long legs that give him an advantage over the other players.

zurich09_korchnoi

Viktor “The Terrible”, taking a break from battling against Swiss cows. Korchnoi seems like an affable guy as long as you let him win. He was all sneaky smiles when on top, and a rather grumpy old man when not. His performance was impressive nevertheless: 21 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws.

However, the most fascinating player — and the most popular among the attending audience — was Kasparov. This man is pure eye candy. And very, very serious about his chess. Prior to the simul, while most of the other grandmasters were indulging in friendly chit-chat, Kasparov was pacing up and down behind the fence like a tiger in a cage, only to be unleashed into yet another cage full of tasty amateurs. Perhaps he came out there wanting to prove something, to assert his position as the foremost chess master in history once and for all among his peers.

Kasparov had such a multifarous display of frowns, head-shakes, glares, stares, rubs, lip-bites, gestures and expressions that eventually I gave up on taking pictures and made a video instead. As you can see, Kasparov was snacking on some Swiss chocolate — clearly a performance booster, judging by his result: 21 wins, 4 draws. An astonishing result considering he’s the only retired grandmaster besides Spassky.


Boden’s Mate

August 19, 2009

Inspired by Zibbit via Katar on tactics: Boden’s mate.


Anastasia’s Mate

August 18, 2009

Inspired by Zibbit via Katar on tactics: Anastasia’s mate.

middlegame_mate_anastasia


Assessing a Position

August 14, 2009

Chesstiger has been practising a new thought process that reminded me of Anatoli Karpov and Anatoli Mazukevitsh’s Stellungsbeurteilung und Plan, in  which they propose a seven-point approach to evaluating any given position: 1. Material balance 2. Immediate threats 3. King position 4. Dominance of open lines 5. Pawn structure & weak and strong squares 6. Centre and space 7. Piece development and position. Here in animated form:

middlegame_thoughtprocess_0 Of course, absorbing and internalising this evaluation procedure is only a first step towards becoming a better player. The real challenge lies in learning the 1000+ positional and tactical ideas associated with each factor — that is to say, actually knowing what to look out for and how to assess it for each point; and, of course, being able to weigh the factors against each other. Nevertheless, getting some structure into your thinking from the beginning seems to be a strategy worth pursuing, although one would do well, I believe, to first master the simple “Checks Captures Threats” before moving on to more complex structures.


More Pawns in the Centre are Good

August 13, 2009

In this week’s edition of Novice Nook, Dan Heisman advises that “more pawns in the center are good”. He illustrates this principle with the following position:middlegame_openlines_08_position Dan argues that White, instead of capturing with the queen, should capture towards the centre with the pawn, based on the following three principles:

1)  If you have a choice of pawn captures, capture towards the centre.

2) More pawns in the centre are good.

3) If one side has a semi-open file and the other side hasn’t, and there are no open files on the board, then this is a distinct advantage for the party with the semi-open file.

I think the last two principles refer also to the idea of “if attacked on the flank, strike back on the center”: White’s attack plan focuses on the semi-open f-file and thus the kingside flank; capturing towards the centre with the f-pawn not only opens attacking chances, it is also a pre-emptive measure against Black’s counterstrike in the centre. And here’s the gif to sum up the idea:

middlegame_openlines_08