An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SCID Feature – Personal Chess Rating Graph

I have always been wondering why many commercial chess programs don’t let me visualize my rating progress from my own database of games, and was glad to find that free chess database software SCID has this feature. Here are a couple of my charts:

My ICC rating for games with “standard” time controls (15 min+):image

The drops usually correspond to times when I had to re-start my ICC account and gradually grow the rating from scratch.

My CFC/FIDE rating:image

These graphs not only shows periods of rating rise and fall, but also periods of declined activity, not bad at all for a free program! My CFC rating clearly shows that most of my chess growth happened in 1998-2001. That time range coincides to lot of data points, confirming that to improve – you need to play more!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Questions of Modern Chess Theory - Book Review

I heard about the book Questions of Modern Chess Theory a long time ago – back in the nineties, when I was still studying chess in Russia. Reading it today, I realize that this classic work, although it is very old – still reflects well on modern approach to chess strategy and opening theory. It covers the connection between calculation and assessment, explains how to strike balance between following rules and looking into the specifics of the positions, and gives examples of opening variations that to me – appear still relevant today – Botvinnik variation of the Slav, IQP positions and so on.
The chapter on modern approach to gambit play is also quite instructive. It echoes what books by John Watson and Kasparov talk about, except for it was written half a century before them, and should be given proper credit. No wonder that the young Bobby Fischer had lots to learn from this book by Lipnitsky!
As a quick example, I was particularly impressed by Lipnitsky’s explanation of this famous game, that appeared from a common IQP structure:
Botvinnik – Alekhine, 1938
 image Black to  move. His position is strategically very difficult. He ended up losing the game.
I remembered that Black lost because he had troubles preventing White’s invasion on two open files, and that c6 square being weakened was part of the problem. But Lipnitsky explains this connection very clearly: with the pawn back on b7, Black would have been able to play Nb8-c6 and contain most of White’s initiative. As it is, White threatens to invade both to c7 and to e7, and that is too much for him to handle. From my experience, such strategic insights into details of each position are precious, especially if they shed a new light on a well known game.
Recommended: 9/10.

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