An unexamined life is not worth living.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rook Endgames – Study Guide Ebook is Published

After 15 years of reviewing my analysis of many interesting rook endgames, it was a good time to summarize and make the findings public.
This book expands on my article from "En Passant" magazine from many years back, and in it you will learn:
  • The real reason to analyze your games
  • What latest chess software can reveal about complicated endgames
  • How to properly assign roles to a king and a rook in endgames with passed pawns on both flanks
  • How to study any type of endgame that you are interested in
  • In which opening variation you can surprise the opponent with a prepared idea on move 33
“Rook Endgames – Study Guide” book is now available in the kindle store.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Hard Truth about Time Trouble

Time time trouble in chess can be fun and give you the state of flow where your entire attention is focused on the board and nothing else matters. Your mind is on top of its game, and in this state of high concentration you are able to find moves that you normally would not see. But there are two very different scenarios here:

A) Mutual Time Trouble

Example: Both you and your opponent have about 3 minutes left in a sharp middlegame, with 30 second increment. With your opponent being in time trouble too, the outcome of the game could be either win,  loss or draw, the chances are the same as they were before time trouble.

B) Only one player is in time trouble – YOU

Example: You have 5 minutes vs. opponent's 1 hour, same increment and he is grinding you down in a long endgame. Time trouble where you have little time and your opponent has plenty, is very different. You'd also have to be glued to the board, but while your opponent is taking his time until he finds decisive simplification. A lot of suffering is in store, and you will likely lose. No state of flow will likely help you (although miracles do happen of course).

Time trouble can be created different indeed...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Setting Up Chess Goals - 2015

Setting up goals in chess or in anything can be eye opening if you've never done this before; it can also be therapeutic as it makes us more realistically consider what we can and cannot do in the near future. As time passes, goals are the measuring sticks that allow to see how much of what we set out to do – we are actually achieving. Not everyone does best with this paradigm, but for obsessive compulsive types – there is no use resisting this idea of being to set objectives and achieve them, or at least re-calibrate from time to time and reset those goals.
 I have attempted to have several chess-related goals for the next year that I think are both reasonable and appropriate for where I am in my life now (there is a place for chess in it, but I want to free up space for other things too). So here are my goals for 2015 (and maybe slightly beyond it):

Chess Improvement
  • Achieve a rating of 2400 in one of the ICC categories (blitz/active/etc)
  • Related to the above – I want/need to play at least 100 standard rated games on ICC in the same year
  • Improve my confidence in the opening with the Black pieces (avoid quick losses or unpleasant positions due to being unfamiliar with the opening)
    • This one is a challenge because it is hard to quantify what I am trying to achieve here
  • Solve about 1000 tactical puzzles, roughly 3 puzzles a day
  • Qualify for the provincial championship
    • The qualification requirement has gone up to 10 rated games a year, so this one has just become that much harder

These goals won't be easy to reach, they will require continuous focus and addition of some regular habits:
  • solving puzzles whenever I have a couple of spare minutes
  • improve ability to focus during blitz games, as without focus - the rating objectives are clearly not achievable, not in the next year, not ever
  • better planning of other activities so that I find the time to play a couple of half hour games every week

In addition to the usual desire of expressing thoughts in writing, another reason for sharing this set of goals is that as a reader of this blog – you might help me with quite a few of these goals, while also looking at chess study materials that you might have missed before.

I find chess improvement difficult without frequent reflection, and it currently it takes the form of writing on this blog, and making ebooks. [In my head] this has taken a life of its own, and lead me to a set of goals in Chess Publishing:
  • Make my chess materials available on 4 platforms or more. Currently I cover 3, so I need maintain and improve on this
  • Have at least 10 additional Amazon reviews on my books in the next year
    • I have several reviews so far, so if you’ve read my books or their previews – please feel free to add your comments, on amazon or here, as feedback is what helps everyone do better
  • Reach 1000 Youtube subscribers
    • After 7 years of posting, and with my channel at around 180 videos - I am now sitting at 900+ subscribers. Subscribe to get notifications of new videos!
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  • Publish all previously written/drafted books
    • I have about 3 books that are nearly ready to be published, but still have that remaining 10-15% percent of polish that is still clearly required

If you've read this far, maybe you'd want to leave your comments:
  • What are your chess goals?
  • Do you find it useful to set goals in something that is really a hobby for 99% of those of us that call ourselves chessplayers? 
  • When your results improve - is that a result of setting goals, or a natural part of studying the game?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Recommended for Watching: Magnus Carlsen Reviews World Championship Game 2 Victory Over Anand

I followed the Anand-Carlsen  struggle rather closely, especially their first match, so it was interesting to see one of the games from Carlsen's perspective:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Keeping Focused – On and Off the Chess Board

The issue of focus is an ever constant problem for anyone in the current society, but for chess players addressing it is particularly important. As Garry Kasparov once wrote – being able to concentrate fully on what’s happening on the board during a game and ignore everything else – is perhaps the most important skill for a chess player. That was written more than 25 years ago, and is true today more than ever.

When starting to study chess, I also read that chess, among other things - helps kids to improve their attention span, and I found that to be true at the time, but that was before computers, internet, mobile phones and other distractions came along. Maintaining focus during the game is easier because old habits kick in, and we are not allowed to use computers during tournaments, but during preparation – it is a challenge. If Anatoly Karpov was known to prepare for his Candidate Match games with the TV on, what can the mere mortals do? I’d like to suggest the following strategies for focus and motivation:

  1. set up clear study plans with definable objectives over longer term
  2. create habits that involve at least minimal daily chess study (e.g. solving 3 puzzles a day)
  3. set up routine for regular longer chess sessions when you can dedicate an hour or two of uninterrupted time
  4. get a study buddy or coach involve to keep yourself responsible to someone
  5. turn off internet or blocking distracting websites
  6. spend time away from the computer, with the chess board and books
  7. emulate playing environment while training – using chess clocks when looking for a move, having a board in a quiet room, etc
  8. during the tournament games – be mindful or where your clock time and attention goes – during your turn and your opponent’s
  9. during longer games – have regular breaks to make sure you have blood flowing to the brain and you don’t play a “blackout” type of move that you later can’t explain yourself
  10. arrive for tournament games a bit early, so that you can get into tune before the game starts, and don’t accidentally play a wrong opening move because you are still thinking a traffic jam you were in on the way to the game

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Best Combinations – December 2014 (Monthly Chess Tactics Book 12)

December edition of the Monthly Tactics series is out with 50 puzzles for you to solve, added to my collection in the Amazon ebook store. 

December 2014 saw Anand winning the London Chess Classic Tournament, and in Beijing - Grischuk, Gunina, Hou Yifan and Nepomniachtchi were victorious in several categories; the combinations from both editions are well represented in this ebook. This December edition wraps up the series of 12 monthly tactics ebooks for 2014.

Going forward I plan to likely switch for the quarterly updates, primarily for efficiency reasons. I’d like to hear feedback though if anyone thinks that “monthly tactics” is a better paradigm.

Kramnik – Nakamura, London 2014

diagramWhite to move

The book contains the solution, but if you follow the chess news elsewhere, you probably already know what move Kramnik played.

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