An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Petite Combination in the Spanish opening

While studying opening theory, I came across what Capablanca called “Petite Combination”:

image White to move.
What's wrong with Black's last move Ra8-c8?
2rq1rk1/3nbppp/b2p4/pp1Pp3/1n2P3/1N3N1P/PP3PP1/R1BQRBK1 w - - 0 18

Solution: White plays 18.Nxa5! Qxa5 19. Bd2

image the bishop established a pin that after a2-a3 will leave White with an extra pawn.

Looking at the Chigorin Variation of the Spanish Opening over the years, I noticed that the weakness of the dark squares on the queenside after Black's a6 and b5, highlighted by White placing his knight on b3 and bishop on d2, is a common theme. Here it is exploited in its purest form!

ChessBase in Silverlight

Chessbase finally has re-written their database software using one Microsoft’s latest technologies – Silverlight. You can “install” it by going to And it’s free to use! And it looks all pretty and shiny!


Ok, the first paragraph is full of overstatements:

  1. this just gives the basics of functionality compared to their main products
  2. It’s free to use if you run a non-free operating system, Windows. It seems to be using Silverlight 3, which is as far as I know has not been ported to Moonlight yet, so I suspect you won’t be able to use this interface on Linux today.
  3. This just worked on my main PC, but on my laptop the install was a bit of a pain: it was first downloading “stuff” for a couple of minutes, and then informed me that I needed to upgrade Silverlight 2 to Silverlight 3. After I did that, my IE would begin to crash on startup, so I gave up on this whole Silverlight install thing in frustration. I suppose this complaint goes against Silverlight, not Chessbase.
  4. “Paste position” did not work for me, I hope they fix it soon

But enough of whining, I think it’s great that more and more chess websites adopt Silverlight (The Week in Chess did that about a year ago). The Chessbase old Java-based online interface looked hideous and was barely functional. This one is pretty nice, and I can drag and drop UI panels around!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review - Garry Kasparov's Greatest Chess Games by Igor Stohl

My blog entries are usually driven by analyzing games, and I must have not done much of that in the last month or so, thus the shortage of posts. Recently I have mostly been following chess events, in Moscow, London and Wijk An Zee. Sergei Shipov from has been putting up amazing video reviews of each round, and I have tried to watch every one of them.

This post is mostly a quick note that Garry Kasparov's Greatest Chess Games, Volume 2  by Igor Stohl is a very good collection of games of this great player. Annotations are written in context of Kasparov’s opening repertoire and give good insight into the second part of his career, as it progressed from 1994 to 2005, including arguably his best years in 1999-2002. I studied the games that directly included the openings that I play, but I would like to do a more thorough review of all games in the book that were played in Open Sicilian, as I can foresee that getting insights of Kasparov’s understanding of these structures is beneficial beyond learning the specific variations.

I will only give a quick taste of what Kasparov’s style was like at his prime – when he was able to combine superior opening preparation with aggressive play in the middlegame. In both games, in the same line of the Sveshnikov Sicilian, Kasparov developed strong attack against opponent’s king, and when his queen was attacked, he responded with completely unexpected counter strikes (ok, in my books these moves were as unexpected as a move at a GM level ever gets!). One of the combinations was played against Kramnik, making that game even more remarkable.

Kasparov – Kramnik, 1994

image  White to move. Replay the game

Kasparov-Lautier, 1994

image White to move. Replay the game



Summary: I am strongly considering getting Volume 1 as well!

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