September 14, 2013
So it’s been a while since I last posted, but do not be deceived! A lot of time spent not blogging has been spent practising chess :) A week ago I received my highest rating yet (around 1850) and I am cautiously confident that I am still improving. For those of you who’d like to know what I’ve been up to chess-wise:
- I’ve been an active member of my chess club, which is great fun. Apart from meeting lots of kind and interesting people, you catch the occasional glimpse into a stronger player’s mindset when they comment on your games, something that I believe is perhaps the easiest way to get a better grip on plans and patterns.
- I’ve purchased a chess.com membership and am solving puzzles daily (in my first year of membership, I racked up 66 hours of puzzle-time). I do not follow a strict tactics regime; the aesthetics of the site, the rating and the statistics are incentive enough to keep me going.
- I’ve consulted and re-consulted books and videos explaining basic strategic concepts. The best one so far was Michael Stean’s Simple Chess, who’s my favourite chess author to date. Been reading Silman, too, and am thinking about reading Soltis Pawn Structure Chess.
- I’ve been playing OTB games on a regular basis, including the occasional tournament, time permitting. Roughly twenty-odd serious games so far this year. I’m motivated to play more, but find it difficult to balance work and chess when it comes to playing weekend-tournaments, which is pretty much the only untapped source left for serious games because I don’t particularly enjoy playing online.
- Openings. I spend quite a bit of time on them actually, but I’m not especially happy about the way I go about it. First I tried the Chess Position Trainer, which was a disaster. Spent ages typing in my opening repertoire only to realise after using it for a couple of days that the drudgery factor of memorizing lines and playing through them is too much. (Not hating on the product, it’s just not for me.) I bought two Chessbase DVDs on openings (the only money I spent on chess apart from tournament fees, the chess.com membership and Stean’s Simple Chess) geared towards intermediate players. I’m semi-happy with them. They gave me a sense for what’s going on and what I’m opting for in a position, I suppose. Yet when push comes to shove, I often have a hard time deciding between several feasible moves and lose too much time making that decision. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.
- Openings, the second. I’m trying to change my repertoire from semi-mainlines to regular mainlines. Chess instructors (advertisers for their “repertoire”-DVD in particular, unsurprisingly) always point out that they are interested in an opening repertoire that doesn’t require you to learn tons of theory and where plans are more important than specific moves. But I’m getting the impression that the plans in mainline openings are actually also quite straightforward and you actually needn’t worry about booked-up opponents. Chances are that they are only as booked up as you if you’re playing against a player of your own strength, and at my level theoretical intricacies don’t matter much, anyway. The goal is to get a playable position in which you have a rough idea what you’re playing for: Do you want to initiate trades or do you want to keep pieces on the board? Do you or your opponent have one piece (e.g. a bishop of a certain colour) that’s strategically important to your setup? Are there typical pawn breaks you have to look out for? On which side of the board is your play, usually? On which side of the board is your opponent’s play, usually? Etc. etc. I suspect that the answers to these questions are about as easy to get in mainlines as they are in sidelines.
- I stopped following the blogosphere. Not intentionally, it just sort of happened. The same occurred with my reading of blogs on other topics I used to be interested in. As much I hate to admit it, there just isn’t enough time to do everything.
- If I had to name one aspect of my play that I believe has improved, I’d say I have become slightly better at assessing the long-term implications of moves. I am by no means a better calculator; I’m terrible at calculation. But more and more frequently, I contemplate the long-term pros and cons of a move. What outposts does this pawn-move create? Which squares does it weaken? Might this pawn become a potential weakness if I advance it? Or: What journey might this knight want to make one day to get to a square that might cause problems for my opponent? In other words, my focus has shifted a bit from making short-term concrete threats (“if I move my bishop here, then his knight has to move there… not sure what that accomplishes in the long run, but hey, at least I made my opponent do something) to more long-term strategic threats (“if I move my bishop here, then his knight has to move there, but then what? So I leave the bishop where it is and instead move my knight over there; it doesn’t achieve anything immediately, but maybe later it can come to this-and-this square, and then maybe in combination with my other bishop I can force him to move this-and-this pawn, which might become a weakness later on….” This goes hand in hand in worrying less about phantom threats and just have more confidence in my ability to defend or equalize a position as Black or my ability to maintain the initiative when playing White and trust in the natural flow of the position.
Now having said that, I’m still not particularly good at chess, and I still lose to 1600-players every now and then. Yesterday, for instance, I missed a winning move because I became obssessed with the task of defending instead of tapping into my offensive resources. So I failed to see the winning shot:
A typical attacking chunk. As soon as the opponent weakens the squares around his king (f-pawn / h-pawn) and your dark-square pieces (queen, bishop) and knight are pointing towards the king, be aware of your mating threats. Instead of seeing the “red arrows” and the attacking potential of my pieces in the game, I completely forgot about my knight on f6 and focused exclusively on the task of defending the queenside and eventually lost. It never even occurred to me to use the knight in combinaton with the queen and bishop for an attack. Definitely a blind spot I want to get rid of in the future.
Note: If White defends with Rxc5, you can easily convert into a winning endgame. Just gobble up the pawns with lots of checks, place the queen on a square that prevents White from any meaningful checks against your king with his queen, then take the rook. If White tries to defend the second rank with rook or queen, it’s mate in two.
Leave a Comment » | middlegame, tactics, varia | Permalink
Posted by legendumst
September 29, 2012
I tend to lose a good amount of games in which I’ve obtained a clear advantage. What usually happens is that I am low on time and miss more or less immediate threats posed by my opponent. To avoid such frustrating losses, a chess club colleague of mine suggested that I make general consolidation moves before pressing the advantage. One example for such a move is Kg2 in the position below. Rather than giving Black an opportunity to invade the king’s vicinity with devastating effect, White protects the intrusion square h3, solidifying the King’s defence and forcing Black to come up with a less direct attacking scheme.
Of course, the chunk that’s shown in this gif is related to a common mating pattern of Queen + Bishop, e.g. this one:
Or this one:
Leave a Comment » | middlegame, tactics | Tagged: consolidation, king safety, mating patterns, queen intrusion | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
September 15, 2012
After a bit of a dry spell, I’ve taken up studying tactics and openings again, among else by joining chess.com. They offer you a 30-day diamond membership trial and so far, it looks like I’m going to keep it. I prefer their tactics trainer to ChessTempo because the puzzles are much more straightforward and easier, hence more fun and hopefully more likely to ingrain basic patterns in my brain. I’m also a fan of their Chess Mentor feature and the videos. The layout is crisp yet appealing, and the overall feel of the site is that of a community of mostly novices and intermediate players who are motivated to improve but not overzealously so, which is exactly what I’m looking for.
In today’s tactics training, I came across a classic pattern that I had forgotten about, so I made a gif of it. The two patterns it combines are back rank mate and interference.
In the comments, the Chess Adventurer suggests I explain the concept of interference. (From a previous post:) An interference is a piece sacrifice with the intention of cutting off vital lines or blocking escape squares. In the gif below, White sacrifices the knight with check to disrupt the line between Black’s rook and queen.
In the next gif, White uses his bishop for an interference between two connect rooks, effectively trapping Black’s rook in the White camp:
2 Comments | tactics | Tagged: back rank mate, interference, tactics | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
June 18, 2010
I’ve borrowed Vukovic’s The Art of Attack from the library. His introduction to the attack against the castled king has a section on mating patterns. I think this is a good opportunity to make some gifs reviewing some of these patterns.
Two Knights Mate
Arabian Mate (pawn variation)
Bishop and Queen Discovery Mate
Quiet Bishop and Queen Discovery Mate (this coincidentally featured in one of LinuxGuy’s games recently)
Update: MOAR MATING PATTERNS!!
Two Queen and Minor Pieces Mates
Good Old Smothered Mate
Some Mates Involving Rooks
8 Comments | tactics | Tagged: attack, mate, mating patterns, tactics | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
February 16, 2010
Lost against a 1850 and a 1750 in the exact same silly fashion by overlooking a pin followed by a double attack on the pinned piece. I was playing White, the pawn next to my king had been moved, opening the diagonal for Black’s black-square bishop, and each time I stepped right into a classic pin winning the exchange. But because I’m an idiot, I ignored the threat, trying to counter-attack, and on the next move lost the whole rook because I allowed my opponent to attack the pinned piece again. Basic tactics stuff. Blunders come in packs, I suppose. The basic chunk (Qe3? … c3??):
And for good measure, the most common chunks for bishop and castled king:
3 Comments | middlegame, tactics | Tagged: bishop pin, blunder, exchange, middlegame, pin, tactics | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
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.”
3 Comments | middlegame, tactics, varia | Tagged: ACIS improvement post, ACIS of Caissa, fork, invasion, mating pattern, pawn push, Scotch Gambit | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
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.
Leave a Comment » | middlegame, opening, tactics | Tagged: ACIS improvement post, ACIS of Caissa, knight fork, ruy lopez, tactics | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook
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.
1 Comment | middlegame, tactics | Tagged: interference, middlegame, tactics | Permalink
Posted by chunkyrook