Bishop Pin on g5/f6

April 25, 2012

A rule of thumb for Black when playing against Spanish/Italian openings with a knight on f6: Don’t castle when your dark-square bishop is locked out by a pawn on d6; the pin created by the bishop on g5 against the knight on f6 tends to be very strong. Of course, if you know your theory, you’ll be able to wiggle out of the pin unscathed eventually, but for the less well-versed,having to defend against the pin is extremely annoying indeed. Hence, be wary of locking out your bishop and castling prematurely.

This works in very well in conchunktion (pun drum roll, please!) with the Bindelicious chunk.

King versus Knight Checks

April 8, 2012

A useful chunk for the endgame: If your king is exposed to checks by the enemy knight, taking the “diagonal opposition” (squares highlighted in green) to the knight forces the knight to manoeuvre three times before being able to check again. Other moves allow ealier checks.



April 6, 2012

A follow-up chunk to doubling pawns at f6: create a bind on f5 to prevent the weakened f-pawn from advancing. Remember the old adage to immobilize weak pawns in the enemy’s camp!

P.S.: I’ve just reviewed all the posts I’ve published on this blog so far, and I was struck by how familiar some of the chunks have become. Some of them are so obvious to me now that it seems almost silly to have posted them; yet let’s not forget that it’s easy to misjudge the effort that goes into learning this game. Things that are perfectly apparent to us now are by no means obvious to the beginning player. I’d also say that some of the gifs have been nearly useless to me, particulary those that are either too concrete or too abstract. I don’t know how others experience this, but for me as a 1700+ player, the most satisfying and indeed most motivating routes to study are those paved with clear, simple explanations illustrated by one or two examples, avoiding over-generalisation while at the same time neglecting overly detailed variations. I simply lack the patience and the skill to absorb and judge the merit of tactical complications and in-depth variations; in the meantime, I feel as though my play is greatly enhanced by having at least some clue as to how to approach a position before starting my (admittedly modest) calculations. My goal at this point is to consolidate as many relevant chunks as possible and put them to use, and absorbing some more along the way. This is, of course, a rather lazy approach, but in my estimation a practical and, most importantly, an enjoyable one.

Don’t Open Lines For The Bishop

April 1, 2012

Pawns blocking lines of enemy bishops are an asset, especially in the endgame. Instead of grabbing more material, Black should aim at keeping the crucial diagonals of the White’s black-square bishop locked up in order to promote his pawn.


Entrech, Attack, Undermine

March 31, 2012

After a rather intense working streak, chess has slowly made its way back into my life in the last weeks. I’ve managed to regain my initial peak rating of ~1750 and I believe I’ve consolidated the 1700-mark. The chess bug’s bitten me again and there are some upcoming tourney which I hope will inspire me to work towards 1800. Baby steps!

Still working, of course, so no promises of chunky gifs galore, but I’ve just borrowed a book from the library that, at least at first glance, provides quite a few classic chunks worth remembering. To wit: Pawn chains. The attacker wants to create pawn chains to entrech a pawn in the enemy territory and use it as a spearhead for his attack. The opponent wants to undermine the pawn chain to split up his enemy’s pawns into as many pawn islands as possible and counterattack. Entrech & attack versus undermine & counterattack. Here goes.

Erm. Is it just me or has the quality of WordPress’s userinterface dropped significantly? The gif doesn’t display probably, access to post editing takes a lot more clicks … what the hell, WordPress? *clickediclackediclick* Okay, seems to be working now after re-inserting the image and adjusting the settings.

Simon Williams’ GingerGM Blog

July 14, 2011

A thumbs-up and shout-out to the chess blog of “GingerGM” Simon Williams. The video analyses of his games are particularly fun and instructive, and I muchly sympathise with his coffee addiction … I myself may sometimes be seen pacing up and down like a tiger in a cage trying to locate a coffee dispenser prior to a game, and I guess I wouldn’t take kindly either to an opponent taking umbrage at my coffee habits.

Opposite-Colour Bishop Ending and Some Notes on Memorisation

July 7, 2011

The following gif exemplifies a basic drawing idea in opposite-colour bishop endings: Black wants to

  • control the square of the pawn advance
  • attack pawns so that the enemy king is tied down to their defence.

1. … Bb3 is a mistake because it frees White’s king from the defence of the f5 pawn; after 2. Bg5+ Kd7 or Kf7, White’s king is going to invade via f4 or d4, respectively. This idea isn’t going to work after 1. … Bd7! when the king’s stuck to defend the f5 pawn.

While we’re at it, here’s a previous chunk on opposite colour bishops that illustrates more or less the same idea; White’s in control of the pawn-advance square and keeps the Black king occupied with the defence of the pawn on c4. The resulting position is once again a draw:

On another note: for those of you interested in memorisation, here’s a compelling article on the “spacing effect” and Polish memory specialist Peter Wozniak by Gary Wolf. One of the insights proffered by Wozniak, backed up by what appears to be sorely neglected research into memorisation, is the following:

Once we drop the excuse that memorization is pointless, we’re left with an interesting mystery. Much of the information does remain in our memory, though we cannot recall it. “To this day,” Bjork says, “most people think about forgetting as decay, that memories are like footprints in the sand that gradually fade away. But that has been disproved by a lot of research. The memory appears to be gone because you can’t recall it, but we can prove that it’s still there. For instance, you can still recognize a ‘forgotten’ item in a group. Yes, without continued use, things become inaccessible. But they are not gone.” […]

Long-term memory, the Bjorks said, can be characterized by two components, which they named retrieval strength and storage strength. Retrieval strength measures how likely you are to recall something right now, how close it is to the surface of your mind. Storage strength measures how deeply the memory is rooted. Some memories may have high storage strength but low retrieval strength. […] Perhaps you’ve recently been told the names of the children of a new acquaintance. At this moment they may be easily accessible, but they are likely to be utterly forgotten in a few days, and a single repetition a month from now won’t do much to strengthen them at all.

[…] One of the problems is that the amount of storage strength you gain from practice is inversely correlated with the current retrieval strength. In other words, the harder you have to work to get the right answer, the more the answer is sealed in memory. Precisely those things that seem to signal we’re learning well — easy performance on drills, fluency during a lesson, even the subjective feeling that we know something — are misleading when it comes to predicting whether we will remember it in the future. “The most motivated and innovative teachers, to the extent they take current performance as their guide, are going to do the wrong things,” Robert Bjork says. “It’s almost sinister.”

The most popular learning systems sold today — for instance, foreign language software like Rosetta Stone — cheerfully defy every one of the psychologists’ warnings. With its constant feedback and easily accessible clues, Rosetta Stone brilliantly creates a sensation of progress. “Go to Amazon and look at the reviews,” says Greg Keim, Rosetta Stone’s CTO, when I ask him what evidence he has that people are really remembering what they learn. “That is as objective as you can get in terms of a user’s sense of achievement.” The sole problem here, from the psychologists’ perspective, is that the user’s sense of achievement is exactly what we should most distrust.

The spacing effect was one of the proudest lab-derived discoveries, and it was interesting precisely because it was not obvious, even to professional teachers. The same year that Neisser revolted, Robert Bjork, working with Thomas Landauer of Bell Labs, published the results of two experiments involving nearly 700 undergraduate students. Landauer and Bjork were looking for the optimal moment to rehearse something so that it would later be remembered. Their results were impressive: The best time to study something is at the moment you are about to forget it. And yet — as Neisser might have predicted — that insight was useless in the real world. Determining the precise moment of forgetting is essentially impossible in day-to-day life.


Passed Pawn Chunks

June 26, 2011

A shoutout to the Dutch steps method, an excellent self-study course developed by Rob Brunia and Cor van Wijgerden. I’m currently working on the chapter “passed pawns” and thought — to learn as well as advertise — I’d share two chunks from the chapter so far:

Two passed pawns: interrupt one of two defenders.

Setting up a discovered promotion:

Respect for Material

June 13, 2011

Despite the tumbleweeds skittering across this blog, I’m still playing chess, and I believe I’m improving, too, even though it’s not necessarily reflected in my rating. In any case, lack of time, but also lack of chunks has kept me from updating regularly, but today I’ve come across a nifty little chart I’d like to share that I found in Lev Alburt’s Openings for Black, Explained. The chart grades well-known chessmasters on a scale ranging from “healthy disrespect for material” to “healthy respect for material”.

Quite nifty, I thought. And a sensible way of looking at the play styles, too. I believe I currently belong more to the “healthy disrespect for material” camp, but often find myself opening with every intention of sacrificing for the initiative, and then ending up retreating to defend loose pawns at the first sign of danger, or unable to cash in my activity for a concrete advantage.

So I think it’s time for a change. For the past couple of months, I’ve chosen open games and aggressive openings to hone my tactics and improve my grasp of initiative and counter-play. And I think I made enough progres to now try a more conservative opening choice, especially for Black. Alburt’s tome recommends the Accelerated Dragon against e4 and the Nimzo-Indian against d4, so I’ll have a shot at that and see how it goes. If anyone wants to share their own experiences with these openings, you’re cordially invited to share! By the way: I used to believe firmly in the credo that beginners and intermediate players shouldn’t spend too much time on the opening. However, I’ve recently heard GM Jan Gustafsson challenge this, and I’ve also heard from a fellow club player who crossed the 2000 mark within 4 years (and is still improving) that he almost exclusively studied openings. This is not to say that I’ll abandon other areas of study completely, but I might reconsider my priorities. (Not that I’ve got much time to study chess these days, anyway.)

Back from Hiatus, the Second

April 6, 2011

Apologies once again for not putting my word(press blog) where my mouth is! Chess has swallowed up all my time, although not the improvement kind; rather, I’ve been busy revamping our chess club’s website (of which I am the webmaster). Meanwhile, my performance over the board has taken a dive and I’ve been on a bit of a losing streak.

Improvement-wise, I feel as though I’m currenly at a decent 1800-idea-chess-level and at a measly 1500-tactics-chess-level. So my plan is to keep myself busy on ChessTempo until I reach a solid 1800 rating there before I go back to mainly studying ideas. A chessclub friend of mine has started using the Dutch steps method and has kindly offered me the material on part 6 as an Easter gift as I can’t really afford spending any more money on chess apart from tournament and club membership fees.

Sadly, I haven’t come across any gif-able chunks lately. Maybe just this little piece of advice from my last loss: If you’ve got a clear structural pawn weakness on the board (such as a backward pawn), make sure you evaluate all minor piece exchanges in light of that weakness. In this particular case, Black clearly wants to keep the dark-square bishop on the board to defend the pawn (or, even better, exchange dark-square bishops).

Realising that you’ve got a structural target on d6 will also help you evaluating potential pawn moves. The d6-pawn can be attacked, say, from f5 witha  knight, so Black’s g-pawn is an important defensive asset as it can take away the f5 square and thus prevent intrusion.