Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chess Books

I figured things have been rather quiet lately here so I decided to talk about a few books I have been going through recently and books I've finished recently.

Excelling at Chess Calculation by Aagaard
I really like this book, there are some very interesting problems and it really does give ideas on how to improve your calculation and things to be weary of while calculating. I've actually read through it once before, but reading it now it's obvious my first reading wasn't too attentive. I'm not sure how much of this book is easy to pick up, most of it needs to be done through practice which it doesn't necessarily provide on it's own, but it does give suggestions for organization of thought.

Chess Self-Improvement by Zenon Franco
This book has a pretty cool cover and the first time I heard of it I thought it was pretty dorky and that the book wouldn't be of much interest to me. Actually this is an interesting book and if you spend the time to really go through the games with serious concentration you can gain a lot. I feel like if you spend the effort this is as closed to a simulated game environment you can probably get. The moves he asks you to try to figure out vary in difficulty and the points are awarded in various fashions. I will note, don't even both with this book if you plan on just skimming through it, that's a waste of your time.

School of Chess Excellence 1: Endgame Analysis by Dvoretsky
I bought this book really recently and have just started working through it, but it seems very good so far and is much more theoretically based than the bulk of Dvoretsky's other work Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. Here a lot of time is spent talking about playable positions and I feel like I will be able to learn a lot from this book. He goes over some very tough endgame positions from real games, often times where players had hours to analyze in adjournment.

Chess for Zebras by Rowson
A good deal of the book so far is spent presenting information from Seven Deadly Chess Sins in a different manner, but a lot of it is spent on chess improvement. I don't know how particularly relevant it is to me now in this manner, but after reading a review of this book and browsing through it I decided it was certainly worthwhile. His writing style is very candid and always enjoyable. It's certainly one of those books I could work through, not absorb anything and still enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On the shoulders of giants...

One of my favorite quotes:

“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” - Sir Isaac Newton

To me I always find it strange when people refuse to study openings because they claim it's just wrote memorization. And to be fair, there is some memorization involved, but I think far less if you do it right. Let's make a quick mention of a very popular opening, the Najdorf. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 black plays 5.. a6!? This is one of a few moves available to black in the position, but why when black has only one piece developed is he playing this move a6? It somewhat violates many opening principles. It doesn't develop a piece or really even prepare to develop a piece. Nb5 isn't exactly threatened in the position although if black intends to follow up with e5 in some variations this square is protected. However, if we look in many Sicilian lines, Nb5 or Bb5 even when they're sacrifices are important ideas, but certainly time can be taken out to play this a6 later if it can be done now, right??? Well, black is making a useful move that he will almost certainly have to play later in order to see what white does next and also prepares some moves that he will not necessarily play. For example, black would love to play 5.. e5 without including a6 if it weren't for the problem of Bb5+ now white can go to f5 either after 6.. Bd7 7. Bd7+ 8. Nf5 or just 6.. Nbd7 7. Nf5. I'm sure 90% of the players who play the Najdorf below probably 1800 don't even know why a6 is the move there when there is a simple reason that is much easier to remember than the move itself. I think for the most part if you really understand and opening when you encounter a new theoretical move you will understand the logic of it. If you find yourself uncomfortable when your opponents play strange moves in your pet lines, it's probably time you took your pet opening out for a walk in the park to see what's really going on.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Western Pacific Open Results! (Updated)

I had a solid performance this tournament. Not necessarily a performance I dream of, but it was close.

In round 1 I played the top seed from the 3-day schedule as I predicted, IM Timothy Taylor. I actually got a strategically complicated position against him and was doing find pretty much the whole game, I was even slightly better for a while, but eventually I just miscalculated and collapsed.

In round 2 I play an unrated who gave me a scare when I overlooked a trick he had, but then I realized that this was not a trick at all as it dropped his queen, I wasn't feeling in the best form for this game, but I won fairly quickly and even mated in the endgame with most of the pieces on the board.

In round 3 I played NM Ilya Serpik who I have faced now for the 3rd time going into this game my record against him was 1-0-1 and we have even played some blitz in between rounds so I was feeling good. He played some offbeat line and I got a very nice position out of the opening with black. I actually threw away most of the edge I got by not spending enough time on some of my moves, but I still got a position with good pressure. He blundered shortly after and I converted no problem.

In round 4 I played NM Gregg Small with white. We reached a very complicated position in the middle game which I decided to show:
White to move
So, I might not have chosen the best continuation here, but I think I found a strong idea. Here I played Nb2!? (The whole point of the maneuver I had made from c3 to d1 was to go to c4). I was showing this game to some friends and they have the nerve to criticize this move which I believe I have full compensation if he takes the exchange which he didn't. I probably could've played Be1 first preparing the same idea, but this was still fine. The line I calculated was 19..Nf2+ 20. Rf2 Bf2 21. Nc4 Qa7 (forced) 22. Rf1 Bc5 here I stopped feeling that if nothing else I would have Qg3 Rdg8 Qh4 with some serious compensation, but in fact, I have a knockout that I couldn't calculate all the way in advance, but looked dangerous. 23. Ne5! fe 24. f6 Kd6 (forced or it's basically mate) 25. fg Rhg8 (or Rhe8 Bg5 with a strong attack) 26. Bc4! and the pawn is immune due to Qf6+ 26.. Kc7 27. Bg8 Rg8 28. Qh5 and white has 3 pawns for the sacrificed piece and a continue attack +/-.

Unfortunately for me, things did not end so brilliantly in the game. My opponent wisely declined the exchange and instead played Be8 after which he eventually broke though at the wrong moment which lost a pawn in a position where I was up a pawn and had a better position. Unfortunately in some mutual time trouble (although his was worse) I fell for his last trick in the position which gave him a slightly better endgame which he ground down very well.

In round 5 I got what I deserved for failing to convert my won position in round 4, I was paired against a 1475 player. I won quickly, but I gained (almost) nothing from the game. It did however bring me up to 3/5 which through some miraculous series of events allowed me to qualify for the state championship candidate tournament in June. I'm looking forward to that and I'm hoping to be able to qualify for the state championship there.

Estimated rating change 2129->2135, not bad, I'll be hoping to be doing some more damage in upcoming events. (Note, had I won my 4th game, it would've been another 12 points gained regardless of my result last round against the IM I would've been paired against)

Rating Change Actually: 2129-2137 due to unrated finishing 1900 instead of expected 1800

Friday, April 14, 2006

Weekend Tournament: Western Pacific Open

I'll be driving down towards LAX later today to play in round 1 of the Western Pacific Open. If the pre-entries are reliable (I have multiple reasons to believe they are not) then I'll be playing IM Timothy Taylor in the 1st round. I've lost to him twice including one major blunder in the opening which caused me to resign on move 8. Since I've never scalped an IM, I would love to make this my first. I'm feeling pretty well prepared for this tournament as a whole. I had one disappointing game recently, but I believe as a whole I played well that game and I've been doing a lot of tactical exercizes since then to try to build my awareness. Anyways, if I have some nice results I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Gambits Part 5: Another Marshall Gambit

This is definitely the most famous of Frank Marshall's gambits and probably currently the most theoretically important. I have found only one game between masters so far in 2006 where white dared to allow the Marshall, but at top levels anti-marshall systems haven't been yielding much of an advantage if any for white, they're just less worked out. Here is the critical diagram after black's 9.. d5

I've included pleanty of my personal views and explanations here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gambits Part 4: Marshall Gambit in the semi-slav

When you hear the words "Marshall Gambit" you're probably thinking of a position that arises from the Ruy Lopez, but the truth is that Frank Marshall was responsible for a handful of gambit openings that are still employed at the highest level of chess today with incredible soundness and strength. Here I have started within his gambits with the Marshall gambit against the semi-slav

I have provided some analysis mostly covering a recent game Aronian-Vallejo Pons but also talking a little bit about some ideas. Not the normal ideas I usually like to provide, but this line is very theoretical and I'm not trying to turn this into a theoretical survey. Check here for my analysis.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gambits: Part 3 - The Reversed Halloween Gambit

Some of you are probably asking how much time I plan on wasting with piece sacrificed right from the opening. Well, I think this time you might be surprised by how sound this opening is.
I think this is a good lesson on tempi. Sometimes it's important that the move you make is a good move. For example, some players play the exchange french hoping to make use of their extra tempo. Making use of an extra tempo can be difficult without giving your opponent an opportunity to take advantage of your move. If you don't know what I'm talking about then you can compare the analysis to the reverse gambit to the analysis of the Halloween Gambit itself.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Playoff Results

Well, overall I think I played well today. In the first game I was killing my opponent but since a draw sealed the match for us I took a repetition. In the second game I also had a clear advantage, at least +/- and missing moves that would've made it +-, but instead first I missed tactics that let me get material to go with my positional advantage. I then blundered and was down a pawn with some drawing chances (which would have drawn the match). Then I found a nice trick to win an exchange for another pawn which in the endgame gave me great chances to draw, but unfortunately with only 2 minutes to play it out I couldn't hold. I'm not happy with my results as a win from me would've won the match. Oh well, what can I do now. Back to hours of CT art for "punishment".