An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

10 reasons to analyse your old chess games

I already made a few posts about the benefits of analysing your own games; one of the suggestions is that you’d analyse the game pretty soon after you played it. That way you can reflect on the thoughts you had during the game, and incorporate them into analysis. But there is also plenty of reasons to analyse your old games too! Here are a few:

  1. Even if you looked at that game in great detail 10 years ago, computer engines would have made significant progress, so you’ll spot a few new tactical details that you never realized you missed. Expect a few surprises!
  2. Similarly, you may have not had a proper database at the time at all, so you may have not analysed the opening part of it properly.
  3. Even if you did check the game against a database back then, that was a long time ago! You will see if any new games have been played in the opening since you played that game in 2002.
  4. Old games may be still very relevant to your opening repertoire. Moreover, you may have given up on a certain opening because of a tough loss. Was that loss really the result of an opening problem? Or is it worth resurrecting those old variations that you had spent weeks studying?
  5. You may notice some strategic plans that never occurred to you at the time when you played a game. You may have learned about them already after playing that game. Seeing how they could apply to familiar positions should re-enforce that learning experience.
  6. Looking at several of your older games at once – gives you a better perspective of the trends in your games. Are endgames really your strength? Or does every endgame you play contain 2-3 big mistakes?
  7. If you want to study bishop endgames, you may have not played any of them recently. Old games are then a great study/analysis material! You’ll notice that Mark Dvoretsky often uses his old games even in newer books, and likes to add details to his old findings.
  8. Some games you may have not analysed at all (e.g. you did not have time immediately after the tournament, and only looked at 2-3 games that seemed most interesting). But even simple games can have a lot of instructive details in them!
  9. Several years later, you’d be more objective in analysis, and look for improvements in parts of the game that you would have avoided looking at otherwise (e.g. it is not fun to look at an emotional loss)
  10. In addition to reviewing your moves in the actual game, you’ll have a chance to review your old analysis, which reveals your understanding of the chess!

Given how few tournament games I play right now, I used positions from my old games for a lot of my blog entries, here are a few examples:
Game from Canadian Chess Junior Championship 2002 – video
Three rook endgames, three choices, three blunders, three videos
Analytical mistakes – bishop against knight
Most Complicated Pawn Endgame I Ever Played
Bishop endgame (Wright-Jiganchine, 1999)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

10 Reasons to Build an Opening Repertoire

I’ve been alluding to the importance of building an opening repertoire by talking about various methods of doing it, but I have not actually explicitly discussed why it is important to build up an opening repertoire, and put it into a database. Of course, you’d expect to get better positions out of the opening! But as a bonus, here are 10 other direct reasons why having a well defined repertoire is going to benefit your play and study:

  1. You will save time on the clock during games, since you won’t have to think about which line to choose today
  2. Every game played with a repertoire (online blitz, over the board, etc) – takes you closer to understanding your type of middlegame. Also, instead of playing random positions, you are now working towards a glorious goal of polishing your openings
  3. You can ensure you study games of grandmasters that match your repertoire, rather than random ones
  4. If you repertoire is in a database, you can give it to computer engine to blunder check
  5. If you want to analyse a fun position – pick one from your repertoire, and you are working on an opening novelty!
  6. You can test how well you remember your openings with a tool like Chess Position Trainer
  7. If you have a chess study buddy, you can play practice games from certain starting positions, just like Botvinnik did with Ragozin!
  8. If you have a coach, he can help to review your repertoire, rather than labour on building it for you from scratch
  9. You have a better starting point when preparing for a game against a particular opponent
  10. You can now focus on improving other parts of the game, such as middlegame, tactics, endgame, etc. Improving your repertoire will take care of itself, it is an ongoing process, but you have a baseline to work against!

You may have your own reasons, but the last one is a clear winner for me. Ultimately chess is a game for us to enjoy, and sometimes having little bit of discipline up front makes it more pleasant and fun in the long run, going back to my older post on how to enjoy studying openings.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mastering the Endgame – Understanding Typical Structures

If you have read the book “Mastering the Endgame” by Mikhail Shereshevsky, there is little new for you in this post. Otherwise, I’d like to emphasize again – studying the opening should involve not only memorizing the moves until the end of the line in your opening encyclopaedia, such as NCO, but also learning the typical patterns, middlegame ideas, and even the impact of pawn structures (that do originate in your opening) on the resulting endgames. Here is a little example (click on the game link to replay the moves)

Hamdouchi – Mifsud, 1994

image Black to move. Can he free himself up with e7-e6?
The pawn structure obviously arouse from the Dragon variation of the Sicilian defence. Grandmaster Hamdouchi outplayed his opponent and has several advantages:
1) the pawn on h6 is a thorn in Black’s position.
2) b5 pawn is a weakness
3) Black’s g7 bishop is traded off, and White has enjoying the advantage of having a better bishop

All that being said, those are small advantages, and it would normally take a lot of work to convert a position like this into a full point for White. But Black decided to free himself up and undermine the d5 pawn with e7-e6. The punishment was swift:

28… e6? 29. Bxg6!!
image When you have a far pawn advanced pawn, sacrifices like this are very typical.

29… hxg6 30. h7 Kg7
image White to move. e7-e6 weakened the 7th rank, so White can take advantage of it.

31. Rxf7+! Kxf7? (It was better to go into a rook endgame that is probably still lost: 31... Kh8 32. Rxd7 exd5 33. Kb2 Rc6 34. c3 d4 35. cxd4 Rc4 36. Rxd6 Rxb4+ 37. Kc3 Rc4+ 38. Kd3 Kxh7 39. Rb6 +-) 32. h8=Q Rb7 33. g5 exd5 34. Qf6+ Kg8 35. Qxg6+ 1-0

White demonstrated the ideas of this endgame in a perfect form in this example. To improve the level of your play – take note of games that illustrate ideas typical for the pawn structure of your openings!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Missed Sacrifice in Kortchnoi – Dreev

Kortchnoi – Dreev, 1992

image White to move r2q2k1/pp1nrp2/2pb1n1Q/8/2BPp3/8/PPPB1PPP/R3R1K1 w - - 0 19

Having invested one piece into opening up Black’s king, Viktor Kortchnoi should have thrown in another one!
19. Bb4 would have won the game, since after 19… Bxb4 20. Re3, the rook threatens to swing both to g3 and to h3.

Instead Viktor the great must have overlooked the idea completely and settled for perpetual check! Click here for the complete game.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Knight sacrifice in Sicilian Defence - video

Jiganchine – Change He Li, Vancouver, 2008.

image White to move  rnb2rk1/2qnbppp/pp2p3/3pP3/P2N1P2/2N1BB2/1PP3PP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 13

Black has somewhat delayed the development of his queenside, and I had a combination at my disposal. I missed the chance, during the game, but now made a youtube video about it – watch it to see the solution!

(I am still working on making the audio in my clips sound better, this one is yet another attempt).

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