An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chess Strategy - Geller Exploits Weak Light Squares

Geller – Bertok, 1961
image White to move. Efim Geller outplayed his opponent in this Sicilian middlegame, and controls the light squares in the center (d5 and f5). Now his pieces occupy ideal squares and it just the matter of finding the decisive blow…

For the solution, and brief overview of the entire game (taken from the “Mastering the Endgame” book by Shereshevsky) - watch the YouTube video:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mastering Chess Openings with John Watson

By now I have either bought or borrowed all 4 volumes of John Watson’s series “Mastering Chess Openings”. This is definitely a very special project as the author combines the nearly encyclopaedic breadth of coverage with the extensive verbal explanation and analysis of the themes behind chess openings. From reading these books one can begin to understand the inner connections between various chess openings, something that no computer opening tree is able to show right now. Typical pawn structures, piece manoeuvres, and positional themes are discussed across volumes.

image Volume 4 is the last one in this impressive project.

This is an essential reading for someone who wants to both improve their opening preparation, as well as their general understanding for the game of chess. Some authors like to focus on problems of the middlegame and endgame, but John Watson definitely has a taste for the philosophy behind chess openings, so it is great that he has expressed it all in these 4 volumes. This is not a repertoire book, so you can’t build a full repertoire based on this book alone. This is also not a full encyclopaedia, as some openings are omitted (such as the Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian), but these series should give you a guidance on which openings you should choose. In addition to discussing particular openings Watson focuses on general themes, such as

  • gambits
  • pawn structure
  • opening preparation in the modern age
  • importance of transpositions and move orders
  • reversed openings, and the role of the extra tempo

If you have read and enjoyed “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy”, you should also enjoy “Mastering the Chess Openings”.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strategy for Gaining Rating on Internet Chess Club

Internet Chess is mostly for entertainment, but most players today play more games online than over the board. So it is something we need to treat rather seriously if we want to improve from online games. Well, I am not a very good blitz player, and I am not in very good chess shape, but I noticed recently that I played quite a few blitz games on ICC without losing or drawing any. In fact my winning streak lasted so many games that there is not a single loss or draw in my ICC history, which spans 20 last games. Bobby Fischer’s winning streak in 1971 was 19 straight wins, but I had a couple of aborted games here, so his streak probably is still more significant. In the process my Blitz rating went up from 2052 to 2192.


Not to over-celebrate, I wanted to make a few observations to explain how this could possibly happen:

  1. I had lower rated opponents than myself in all of those games. This is not too helpful for gaining rating, but surely helps to make the streak longer
  2. I only played 1-2 game each day. I tend to lose focus/motivation if I play many blitz games at once.
  3. I used a convenient mouse, which helped with concentration
  4. I played these games not at my home, but rather at a place where I have very few external distractions
  5. I was lucky in a couple of those games
  6. I played my regular openings with both colours
  7. I played most of those games with the same time control
  8. I did not surf the web or listen to music while playing, minimizing self-induced distractions
  9. I did not play in tournaments during these 3 months, so again, I got used to the time controls
  10. I started to particularly care about the outcome once I set the goal for 20 games without a loss

Now that I got this blog entry out of my system, I can go and lose a game with a clear consciousness!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chess Strategy - Restricting Opponent’s Pieces

Aseev – Sturua, 1985

image White to move. Black’s pieces are already extremely tied up, and it is tempting to gain material with Rac1. But is there a better way to convert the advantage? Black’s knight and bishop are tied up on the queenside, and White would obviously prefer to keep them that way as long as possible.

Watch the video to see the entire game with the solution:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Three Hundred

I made three hundred posts on this blog in the past 4 years. The blog is definitely helping me to keep my interest in chess going, so as long as I am interested in chess, I will probably keep making little notes on the web in one form or another.


This is also a good time to summarize categories of posts (and I must admit some of 300 posts did not make it beyond drafts): there is quite a few posts about opening preparation, endgame, quite a few posts are positions that I think are good for solving. Other stuff is analysis of my own games  and games of grandmasters. The rest is either about chess-related software, videos I make on my youtube channel and book reviews. So if you are interested in improving your game, chess software and chess books, hopefully there is something for you read on my blog.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Strategic Approach to Exchanging pieces in Chess

Botvinnik – Donner, 1963

image  White to move. Black just played 24… Rc8-a8. Should White exchange rooks?

A long time ago an experienced chess master gave me an advice on how to achieve better positional understanding: in every position – think about what pieces you want to keep on the board, which ones you want to exchange, and why. This example from one of Botvinnik’s books is a great illustration of that point.

The entire game is a great strategic display, you can see it in more details here:

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