An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Is there a similarity between the styles of Kramnik and Botvinnik?

Studying the games of two all time great players, Vladimir Kramnik and Mikhail Botvinnik, I find there are quite a few similarities in their opening selection, strategic methods, and overall styles of play.

The approach of studying openings deeply and both in terms of specific variation, as well as the skill of playing for subtle positional nuances that are prepared at home was first developed by Botvinnik and today has been taken up to the “machine” level by Kramnik with his razor sharp and deep opening preparation. The similarities are likely not accidental, as Botvinnik was the teacher of Kramnik in the late 1980s, so there is a personal connection.

Has anyone else made similar comparisons between Kramnik and Botvinnik in the past? Are there other chess champions who have been called out as very similar in style?

Here are a couple of games by Botvinnik and Kramnik in the same opening - Slav Exchange:

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Do you Expect from a Good Chess Puzzles Collection?

After putting out regular collections of chess tactics/puzzles for the last year or so, I've been thinking about what separates a good chess puzzle collection from a bad one. I find that for a chess puzzle book to be enjoyable, I generally expect it to have the following characteristics :
  • Solutions should be computer or human checked for accuracy (if you ever solved an incorrect puzzle, you know where I come from)
  • Multiple possible solutions are generally avoided for any given puzzle
  • Games need to be new to me (some combinations migrate from one book to another until everyone can recognize them by heart)
  • The quality of the games has to be rather good, preferably - played by grandmasters
  • In terms of layout or presentation - solutions are easy to look up, ideally - without the risk of seeing solutions to the next positions (whether the puzzle is available online or in a book)
These are the qualities that expect from books/collections that use to train my own skills, so I try to do my best to ensure that ebooks that I create, or tactics that I post on this blog  - follow these guidelines as well.

What else do you expect from a high quality chess puzzle book? 

PS. Note, that I am referring here to practical positions, not the skillfully constructed "mate in two" positions where one side has huge amount of extra material and aims to give mate in as few moves as possible. Those can be quite elegant as well, but are generally a different beast altogether.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Best Combinations of June

With so many instructive games played at the world Rapid and Blitz Championship in Dubai, the June “Tactics of the Month” edition is more than double the usual size, and includes over 100 combinations. Here are a couple of examples:

Topalov, V.    --    Grischuk, A.
2nd Norway Chess 2014   2014.06.04  
4  Black to move. Solution (in the book preview)


Le Quang Liem    --    Bologan, V.
FIDE World Rapid 2014   2014.06.16

11 White to move. Solution (in the book preview).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Learn Chess Strategy from the Champion - Games by Vladimir Kramnik

Studying the games of top grandmasters is one of the best ways to improve your own game. I have put together a list of videos I made over the years, that feature Vladimir Kramnik's games - Kramnik's Selected games.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Visualizing Chess - What Chess Openings Score Best for White and Black?

Inspired by recent articles on data mining of chess information, I pulled out my query on a chess SQL database that I ran on 1.5 million games, and with the help of Tableau Public – generated this infographic on 500 ECO codes. Here are the results:

  • Black does best with the ECO codes in bottom right corner
  • White scores best in the top left corner
  • For example A94 (Dutch Stonewall with Ba3) is the best scoring code for White
  • B59 (Sicilian, Boleslavsky variation) – apparently scores really well for Black.

If you are not too familiar with what opening moves each code corresponds to – this Wikipedia page will be helpful -


Does anything on this chart look surprising? Is your favourite opening in the expected part of the diagram?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

FinalGen–Endgame Tablebases On Steroids

Several times I found myself looking for a solution to my problem online without finding it, only to later realize that the tool/utility/service has actually been around available for years. This happened with SCID, and now again with FinalGen. FinalGen is a free GUI utility that allows one to analyze endgames with 7 pieces and more after generating all the necessary data on demand! It is user friendly enough and does not require any complicated command line syntax or configuration, as one could expect. For the position below, it allowed me to generate exact evaluation in less than an hour! Apparently White wins!

Bernstein – Prince, 1946

image White to move – see the complete game here. image

I have played and analyzed quite a lot of rook endgames with two pawns vs one, and they often could not be precisely evaluated – until now!

You can get FinalGen on its website

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