An unexamined life is not worth living.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Chess Strategy Video - Panov Attack - Two bishops as compensation for a pawn

Here is an older video I made but not shared on the blog yet. The opening is the Panov attack, where Black plays a sideline. I get nice pressure in the opening with an isolated pawn structure but miss some nice opportunities. In the endgame White ends up with active rook on the 7th rank, supported by two bishops as compensation for a pawn. When Black's 'a'  pawn falls, the fate of the game is sealed.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Karpov’s Strategic Wins

I got two volumes of Karpov’s Strategic Wins by Tibor Karolyi from the library, and thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the books. It is more of an overview of Karpov’s entire career than just a game selection. As a fan of his style, I was had high expectations and was not disappointed.

Year by year’s statistics are given, so it is possible to follow development of Karpov’s strength, style and life. All games are very deeply annotated, with links to other related games by our hero – by opening and middlegame themse, so you get a sense of his perspective. The author has written other books about Karpov, so he is quite familiar with material. The only quirk I found was the absence of Opening Index, but that was a pretty minor drawback.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chess Software – SCID vs. ChessBase – Cultural Differences

In his famous article titled Biculturalism, a famous software “expert” Joel Spolsky asks a rherorical question - “What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers?” His answer is simple: “for the most part it comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.”

Looking at the chess software called SCID I realized that in comparison with other most popular software such as ChessBase, it clearly comes from a different culture. Where it becomes most noticeable is an ability to customize, extend and automate each program.

 Customizing ChessBase or ChessBase Light, or Fritz (and same applies to Chess Assistant and Convekta’s tools) – is mostly done via updating shortcuts and moving window layout with a mouse. Customizing SCID is achieved by updating text files on disk or adding sets of images in a different directory. Staying textual is what Joel says is typical for the Unix culture.

Automation is another component where the two differ – automating SCID can be achieved via writing TCL scripts that use a clearly defined interface (API) that has been a natural part of the software's architecture - Nearly everything that is done by the SCID UI goes through the same interface. You can also run SCID without user interface at all, and just use the core system from the command line, as it was clearly intended to be used by a programmer.

Automating FRITZ is only possible by using whatever automation has been provided in the main user interface (so you can print several games at once – that’s the kind of “automation” it mostly provides). Aquarium (another Windows program) at some point added a scripting interface, as the developers realized that a lot of their users would like to extend a tool. However it clearly seemed like like a “slap on” effort and that the original system was not designed for this. Limitations and bugs seemed to be endless – at least that’s the impression I got based on user feedback online.

In the end of day, it is not surprising that Fritz is the most popular chess software while most chess fans have never heard about SCID unless they are using Linux as they are primary operating system. Marketing has a lot to do with it, and so does the slightly strange looking window layout that SCID uses. It is also important to remember that ChessBase’s founder Frederic Friedel was one of the pioneers of chess software from the mid-eighties, so it is only fair that his products succeed.

I do hope, however, that the community behind SCID will continue to grow as there are so many things it can do that many do not realize. Also, in the time of many new platforms emerging very quickly - having something written for a programmer makes it easy to port software, so is not surprising that Apps like SCID on the go become popular and appear for free even before larger software companies find the resources to port their windows oriented programs to mobile (and some of them never do because it is too complicated). Sometimes biculturalism is a good thing!


image - “SCID on the Go” UI  - ever wonder why the free “SCID on the go” can read SCID’s native database format, and $5 ChessBase on Android (which is wonderful otherwise) – can’t do that for ChessBase format? Might have something to do with the “UI is the most important thing” approach in the original system).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tactics by Alexander Morozevich

Here are a few simple combinations from one of the most creative chess players of our time – Alexander Morozevich. These examples are coming from some of the earlier games of his that could be found in a database.

Anokhin, Vladimir    --    Morozevich, Alexander, 1991

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 c5 6. d4 d6 7. O-O Nc6 8. dxc5 dxc5 9. Bf4 Nh5 10. Be3 Qa5 11. Nd2 Rd8 12. Qc1 Nd4 13. Re1 Be6 14. Bxb7 Rab8 15. Bd5 Bxd5 16. Nxd5 Rxb2 17. Nxe7+ Kf8 18. Bxd4 Bxd4 19. Nc6 Qxd2 20. Nxd8 Bf6 21. Nc6 Qd7 22. Na5 Qf5 23. Rb1 Bd4 24. Rf1

Question: What is the best move for Black?


Kiselev, Sergey   --    Morozevich, Alexander, 1992

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Bd3 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. O-O exd4 8. Nxd4 Nc6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bh4 Rb8 12. Qe2 g5 13. Bg3 Ng4 14. Rac1 Ne5 15. b3 Ng6 16. c5 Be5 17. cxd6 cxd6 18. Nd1 Bd7 19. Ne3 Qf6 20. Bxe5 Nxe5 21. Rfd1 Rfd8 22. Qd2 Be6 23. Bc4 d5 24. exd5 cxd5 25. Bxd5 Rb5 26. Qd4 Rbxd5 27. Nxd5 Rxd5 28. Qxa7 Nd3 29. Rb1 Qf5 30. Qe3 Re5 31. Qb6 Bd5 32. f3 Re2 33. Qxh6

Question: What is the best move for Black?

Morozevich, Alexander    --    Ivanov, Sergey, 1992

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Qg4 O-O 8. Bd3 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nbc6 10. Qh5 Nf5 11. Nf3 f6 12. O-O Bd7 13. Rb1 b6 14. Re1 fxe5 15. Nxe5 Nxe5 16. Rxe5 Rc8 17. Bd2 Qf6 18. c3 Be8 19. Qe2 Bg6 20. f3 Nh4 21. Re1 Bxd3 22. Qxd3 Rfe8 23. Qe2 Qg6 24. Kh1 Kf7 25. g4 h6 26. f4 Kg8 27. f5 Qf6 28. Rf1 Rc6 29. fxe6 Qd8 30. Qf2 Qe7 31. Qf7+ Kh8

Question: What is the best move for White?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chess Videos - Sveshnikov Sicilian

I make a lot of videos about the Sicilian opening, and a good chunk of them - about the Sveshnikov variation. Here is a collection of videos dedicated to that opening - pick any of 6 videos in the "playlist" option below:

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