Haeggis of, err, ACIS of Caissa Improvement Post #2

November 27, 2009

Two Scotch Gambits played against a 1400-rated and a 1850-rated player. Two wins. One lesson from the first game: if your opponent is uncomfortably stuck to the defence of a pawn on one side of the board, consider using your more flexible pieces to invade on the other side of the board. The queen in particular becomes an extremely powerful intruder once the board gets emptier thanks to its mobility and the fact that trapping it is much less likely.

Lesson two: do not worry about moving the pawns in front of the king when you can use them as a steamroller for a strong attack when the opponent’s pieces are passive. I missed the following pawn juggernaut in my game because I was too worried about leaving my king in the open; thanks to the pawns, not only does White win a pawn, but he also gets a strong attack:

The green blocks simply highlight White’s active position.

Chunks from game two: a neat double attack with the queen and an advanced knight, and an even neater mating pattern with queen, bishop and rook.

This is what happened in the game. As Chess Tiger put it, “sometimes things go your way.”

Blunder, Blunder

November 24, 2009

I won a game yesterday against a 1400-rated player, but it wasn’t glorious. I missed a couple of winning combinations and had a hard time finding strong continuations. It was a frustrating experience to go over the game with the computer, but this morning I found comfort in the fact that the professionals are no less prone to chess blindness, as evidenced by Dennis Monokroussos’ entertaining take on the blunderfest at the World Cup. Comments on my game to follow.

Opening Pawn Fork

November 22, 2009

A super-common theme in openings where the bishops are developed to c4 and c5, respectively. Inspired by a game played and annotated by Prodigal Pawn.

Doesn’t always win material, but often puts the enemy’s developed pieces in disarray while at the same time developing the queen to an active square.

ACIS of Caissa Improvement Post #1

November 21, 2009

I have played my first two games since the inauguration of the ACIS of CAISSA: a draw against a 1750-player (90’+20” increment) and a win against a 1650-player (40 moves in 2h, +1h). I played as Black both times.

The 1750-game was a veritable chunk fest, not only thanks to the fact that my opponent is quite the wise chess sage and very willing to share his chess wisdom, but also because during our post-mortem we were joined by a 2000-rated player who offered his take on the positions. He talked a lot about “manoeuvres” — I love that word; it’s a great synonym for what I mean when I talk about “chunks” or “ideas” tied to piece placement and move sequences.

The first chunk was a cute idea for Black in the Ruy Lopez:

Then we discussed some thematic Ruy Lopez manoeuvres for White:

And here are two tactical motifs, let’s call them “pin fork” and “mate fork” (they never occurred in the game):

The “mate fork” tactic wasn’t particularly difficult to spot, but I was too absorbed by the idea of g5 and never even considered Nh5.

The game against the 1650-player was some kind of Tarrasch Defence Gambit variation. Nothing very chunky about that game unless you play the Tarrasch Defence.


November 17, 2009

An interference is a piece sacrifice with the intention of cutting off vital lines or blocking escape squares. White sacrifices the knight with check to disrupt the line between Black’s rook and queen. Source: Wikipedia.

In order not to lose the queen, Black is forced to sacrifice the exchange.

Endgame Narrative: How to Pick Up a Rook with a Queen

November 16, 2009

Queen and king versus king and rook endgames are a bitch to play when the king is close to his precious rook. The amount of tactical moments that have to be heeded are so vast that construing an endgame narrative seems nigh impossible. So for the time being, I’ve abandoned the quest to master that endgame, and will tell you the story of its little cousin instead, the very easy and simple queen and king versus king and rook endgame when the king is far away from his precious rook. Are you ready? Once upon a time, a queen checked a king…

endgame_queenrookThis technique may come in handy in several endgames: check out Sacrifice for Check and Winning the Lucena with a Rook Pawn.

Endgame Narrative: Rook versus Rook and Pawn on the Fourth

November 15, 2009

In my ACIS improvement plan, I mentioned “memorising certain endgame positions with the help of gifs”. Endgames, like everything in chess really, are about knowledge and technique. On the one hand, it’s helpful to know that you can checkmate with a rook against a king, but not with a bishop against a king. It makes your life easier to know that bishops of opposite colour tend to be drawish, or that a queen against a single pawn isn’t always a win. That’s endgame knowledge. Then there’s technique: the actual skill of executing a mating attack with a rook against a lone king; how to achieve a draw with bishops of opposite colours; how to prevent the pawn from queening if you have a queen versus a lone king and pawn, or how to draw if you’re on the side with the pawn. Etc. etc.

I’ve recently posted two endgame knowledge gifs: rook vs rook and pawn on the 4th rank, and rook vs rook and pawn on the 5th rank. I consider those semi-useful. Maybe they’re not that useful, but it’s kinda cool to know such things by heart. And I included some hints as to the technique of how to play those endings. However, those comments are a far cry from actually mastering this type of endgame. Therefore, I need to study and practise the technique involved. The first step towards mastering the technique, I believe, is an endgame narrative. Just as chess is a narrative that progresses from opening to middlegame to endgame, the endgames themselves are narratives. For instance, mating with a rook: you progress from trapping the enemy king in a box with your rook, closing in with your king, and making the box smaller and smaller until mate. Of course, you’ll still have to calculate precisely and be watchful at every step that your narrative doesn’t deceive you. Nonetheless, narratives are extremely useful because they give you at least a hunch as to what kind of moves to look out for.

Therefore, I intend to post gifs of endgame narratives. I shall replay a certain endgame with the help of the Nalimov Tablebase, try to understand with my patzer instincts the essential technique and based on that add a running commentary to the gif. Of course such a narrative cuts out crucial details and ignores important variations, but it should give me at least a general idea as to what type of move sequences are involved in such an endgame. It remains to be seen whether absorbing such a narrative does more harm than good.

So here’s some endgame knowledge (if the Black king is on a red square, it’s a draw, otherwise it’s a win):

endgame_rookpawn4thAnd here’s the corresponding endgame narrative: