An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Importance of not Giving up In Chess

Here is a blitz game where I was losing, but was able to come back to win. This only goes to illustrate that in online blitz games, having a winning position in no way guarantees a full point, and tables typically turn many times. It is thus important to stay focused till the very end.
image Black to move

Black played 26… Bxe5 which seems to be winning, but since White can’t recapture it because of back rank mate. I was about to resign, when I realized that I can stay in the game a bit longer by playing 27.g4

image Black continued with winning two pawns, but because of opposite coloured bishops, the position is not so clear.
27… Bxh2+ 28. Kxh2 Bxg4 29. Re8+ Kg7 30. Bd4+ Kh6 31. Be3+

image Black to move. White has some counter play, but after 31… g5 Black can continue to play for a win

Instead he blundered twice with 31… Kh5? 32. Rh8 Bf3? 33. Kg3!

image Black to move. Rxh7 is a mate threat, and he has to give up a piece and went on to lose.
Checkmate in the endgame is rare, so the irony is that on the first diagram White seemed to be forced remain down a piece to avoid back rank mate, and only several moves later – Black was in the same boat, except for this time there was no way to save the piece.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My New Russian Chess Blog

My chess blog does have an audience from Russia, although a small percentage (see the stats for the past year). With hopes to increase that, as well as improve my writing skills in mother tongue, I figured I’d start a Chess Blog in Russian. For now it has very few entries, but more will come over time as often I want to share links to chess resources in Russian that would not make sense to post on the English Blog – so now I can post them on my Russian blog.

My Russian blog URL:


image My Russian Chess Blog

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How to Study the Endgame in Chess – 10 steps

I have written a lot about opening preparation, so this may have created create an impression that openings is the only thing I care about as a chess player. However that focus is merely to compensate for the fact that that I have always liked endgames more and my opening preparation was way behind. So here are some tips to improve your endgame:

  1. Read a good book on endgame theory. I can recommend Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual
  2. Read a good book on endgame technique. Here I recommend either some of Dvoretsky’s books, or Shereshevsky’s Endgame Strategy
  3. Study your own games that included interesting endgames
  4. Solve endgame puzzles and studies
  5. Play practice games starting with endgame positions. Use time controls with increments.
  6. Specialize in some material e.g. rooks + knights, or bishops of opposite colour.
  7. Write articles about endgames for magazines or websites. A few years ago, I wrote a series of articles for ‘En Passant’, several of them were about endgames. I probably learned a lot more from that experience than any of the readers.
  8. Use a training endgame course with a software like Peshka
  9. Do a deep analysis of some selected positions and games. Trying to establish exactly whether a given endgame position is winning or a draw can help you to appreciate the whole complexity of chess
  10. Study the games of players, who are particularly famous for their endgame skills – Karpov, Andersson, Rubinstein, Kramnik

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chess Dream – Translating Life into Chess Moves

Chess can be a part of our life, but at what point does our life turn into a game of chess? Some describe life as a battle, as a chess game that requires strategic approach, but I am talking here about more than a metaphor, but rather of a person’s mind being so deeply immersed into chess when the distinction between daily life and chess gets blurred.

A while ago I read an interview with Vladislav Tkachiev and realized that he talked about the feelings described very well what happened to me about 10 years ago. Chess was a very important part of my life at the time (it still is). I was a weak chess amateur, but I was living and breathing chess. I was changing my openings, and could not decide if I should continue with my quest to master 1.d4, or go back to 1.e4. One morning, as I was waking up and in the middle of a dream, I got a feeling that my day was about to begin, and my day was my chess game. Almost as I was deciding which foot to put first on the floor – right foot or left foot, I was trying to decide if I should start my day with 1.e4 or 1.d4. My day was my chess game, and I was trying to choose the opening. I will quote Tkachiev here:

Even when I am not playing it doesn't mean that chess leaves my mind. I am speaking with you, but at the same time the position against Kortschnoi is going through my mind. It is difficult to explain: I am talking with you, and everything we say is beginning to translate into chess language. You looked at me, Nf3, the girl over there smiled, Nf6, somebody fell over there, c4. This has not been described, because unfortunately the books about the subject have not been written by real chess players. Let me explain it again: Today I talked with you, I went to the swimming pool, I played a game, I went to the bar, I had dinner. And all this is beginning to be translated into chess moves. Nf3, Nf6, c4, g6. It is on the brink of madness, but I have asked many players and they have the same experience. I translate everyday life into chess moves, and it happens even if I don't want it to. Sometimes I ask myself "are you nuts?" The answer is definitely yes. Well, slightly, but it is true.

Vladislav Tkachiev in 2003

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The King’s Gambit by Paul Hoffman - Book Review

When King’s Gambit by Paul Hoffman came out in 2007, I was anxious to get a copy as soon as possible. It had good reviews, and in addition I actually had met Paul Hoffman at a dinner in Toronto in 2004, at the closing ceremony for the Canadian Chess Championship. The book is meant to appeal to both readers who know little about chess, and to experienced chess players. I enjoyed the read quite a bit. It provided insider details on the top chess players – Kasparov, Susan Polgar, Joel Lautier, Nigel Short, and others, but also gave more details about the lives of players whom I had actually met at the board – Pascal Charbonneau and Jack Yoos.

Paul’s love for the game shines throughout the book. An chess amateur’s description of the sense of happiness of winning a good game that only chess players are familiar with – make the book stand out.

You will enjoy this book if you have ever

  • dreamt to be a grandmaster
  • admired a fellow chess player’s personal achievement
  • wanted to learn about Garry Kasparov’s restaurant manners
  • prepared for your tournament opponents by spying their ICC game history

Reading “King’s Gambit” I remembered watching Pascal Charbonneau’s dramatic win last round at the Canadian Closed Championship in 2002:

Charbonneau – Cummings, 2002
image White to move. Black had just moved the bishop away from guarding g7, how can this be exploited?

Friday, April 1, 2011

My YouTube Chess Channel

A few days ago my YouTube channel hit a bit of a milestone – I got a 100th subscriber. Big Thank You to Everyone who subscribed!


This is a good time to make some observations about the blog/channel duo:


The blog is more of an outlet for quick notes, thoughts, book reviews, and tactical ideas that caught my attention. On the other hand - making the 65 YouTube videos took a lot more of serious game analysis, some new hardware (microphone) and experimentation with recording software. I would go over the game a few times and try to understand its key points before I could talk for 10 minutes about it. So those videos probably took even more effort than the nearly 300 blog entries. The upsetting part is that at some point is that some of that effort was used while my microphone setup was far from ideal, so the sound quality of some earlier videos is very disappointing.


I also found that I received more comments on the videos, than on the blog entries – viewers who made it through the video probably got engaged in it to the point of actually feeling like making a comment. While the videos are harder to make, and involve wearing headphones to “consume” – the rewards are hopefully higher for both the maker and the viewer.


I used the videos to structure my chess study, so the videos follow several themes, with playlists accordingly:

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