An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kramnik in the Sveshnikov – The Breakthrough Style

The book of Vladimir Kramnik’s  games published in Russia in the end of the 1990’s was called the “Break”, and for a while it became my constant source of aesthetic pleasure. I did not understand back then why people talk about Kramnik as a boring or even solid player, and still don’t understand it now – from following most of the tournaments where he plays. This is a player with a very dynamic sense of pawn structure and of how pawns and pieces release their power in unexpected (to the opponent) moments of the game.

Merely looking through a collection of his games in B33 ECO classifications I immediately came across several examples (I had known most of them from before, but a couple were new to me!). These games were played against the top players of the world, with good results. While regretting that Kramnik stopped playing the Sveshnikov, I do understand that one has to switch repertoire from time to time – in part to develop one’s style, but also to avoid computer preparation as lines that Kramnik makes popular – get overanalyzed to death and become difficult to play for a win.

Lutz –Kramnik, 1995
 image 26…e3 ripped White’s position apart before queenside pawns could promote.

Polgar – Kramnik, 1998
image  With unexpected 38… a4, Black undermined White’s knight and pinned 3 White pieces along the long diagonal.

Anand – Kramnik, 1998
image After 13. Qf3, Black fought for initiative by sacrificing two pawns – 14…f5! 15. exf5 d5! getting enough counter play for the material.

Shirov – Kramnik, 2000
image With 20…d5!! Black was able to transfer the b8 rook to the kingside via b6, and again – obtain enough counterplay.

Leko – Kramnik, 2000
image with 36… b4, Kramnik puts more pressure on White’s tangled position, although in time trouble the game ended as a draw after Black missed a win.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chess For Zebras – Book Review

I had liked Jonathan Rowson writing for quite awhile now so I was curious to see what ideas he has to share in his book Chess For Zebras. One interesting idea that drew my attention was that many chess amateurs pursue a lifetime goal of expanding their chess knowledge.  Our hope is that this would eventually directly improve our practical strength. In particular I had written a blog post on this exact subject.


Rowson arrives at a similar conclusion to what I implied in my post - chess knowledge and chess skills are two very different things. So rather than trying to memorize as many openings and positional ideas as possible it is much better to spend the same time practicing those ideas. A software application that provides the student with training positions will do more for their positional skill than an abstract collection of ideas that will be simply presented to them as pure facts.

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