An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Learn Chess Strategy from the Champion - Games by Vladimir Kramnik

Studying the games of top grandmasters is one of the best ways to improve your own game. I have put together a list of videos I made over the years, that feature Vladimir Kramnik's games - Kramnik's Selected games.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Visualizing Chess - What Chess Openings Score Best for White and Black?

Inspired by recent articles on data mining of chess information, I pulled out my query on a chess SQL database that I ran on 1.5 million games, and with the help of Tableau Public – generated this infographic on 500 ECO codes. Here are the results:

  • Black does best with the ECO codes in bottom right corner
  • White scores best in the top left corner
  • For example A94 (Dutch Stonewall with Ba3) is the best scoring code for White
  • B59 (Sicilian, Boleslavsky variation) – apparently scores really well for Black.

If you are not too familiar with what opening moves each code corresponds to – this Wikipedia page will be helpful -


Does anything on this chart look surprising? Is your favourite opening in the expected part of the diagram?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

FinalGen–Endgame Tablebases On Steroids

Several times I found myself looking for a solution to my problem online without finding it, only to later realize that the tool/utility/service has actually been around available for years. This happened with SCID, and now again with FinalGen. FinalGen is a free GUI utility that allows one to analyze endgames with 7 pieces and more after generating all the necessary data on demand! It is user friendly enough and does not require any complicated command line syntax or configuration, as one could expect. For the position below, it allowed me to generate exact evaluation in less than an hour! Apparently White wins!

Bernstein – Prince, 1946

image White to move – see the complete game here. image

I have played and analyzed quite a lot of rook endgames with two pawns vs one, and they often could not be precisely evaluated – until now!

You can get FinalGen on its website

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Analyzing Shirov’s games – Find the sacrifices

Alexei Shirov has always been known for sharp and creative play. While preparing my April Tactics Ebook, I came across this interesting game of his, where Black had to make a couple of precise decisions:

Grachev – Shirov, 2014, analysis position 1
image Black to move. How can he win the queen on a spot?

Grachev – Shirov, 2014, analysis position 2
image Black to move. How can he regain the piece and obtain better position?

For the full analysis, see my April Tactics book, or you can just view the game here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Carlsen–Anand - World Chess Championship 2014 to be in Sochi?

One of the more interesting chess news of the last few days just came in: World Chess Championship 2014 to be in Sochi - Announcement: The FIDE World Chess Championship match between champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Viswanathan Anand will be in Sochi, Russia 7th to 28th November 2014. There had been two deadlines for bids with no interest expressed.
Follow the link for more details on the announcement and the controversy. As Carlsen and Anand are gearing up to play the second match, in Sochi or elsewhere, you can study their styles and skills from one of my tactics ebooks - World Championship Preview - Combinations by Anand and Carlsen. Originally published before their 2013 match, the title took on the new meaning after Anand won the Candidates this March!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Best Combinations - May 2014 (Monthly Chess Tactics Book 5)

The May edition of the Practical Tactics series is out with over 50 puzzles for you to solve.
Monthly Chess Tactics will allow you to
* Catchup on latest major chess news
* Follow top grandmasters
* Improve your game
* Study combinations any time and anywhere - on your PC, phone, tablet, or any eReader device
* Maintain regular practice by solving one or two puzzles a day

After the major top tournaments of the first 4 months of the year, May was a relatively quiet month on the top scene. But, of course, still a lot of tournaments were played at different levels, including top GM round robins - Capablanca memorial in Havana, won by Wesley So, and Karpov's tournament in Poikovsky, won by Morozevich. Several combinations in this edition also come from the Italian team championship, and the Czech national championship.

In June the Stavanger tournament will involve the top players again, and is sure to produce some interesting combinations that will be included in the next volume.

Here is the list of previous editions:

Tactics of the Month - January
Tactics of the Month - February
Tactics of the Month - March
Tactics of the Month - April

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chess News - Russian GM Alexander Morozevich wins XV Poikovsky Karpov Chess Tournament 2014

As reported by ChessBlog, Russian GM Alexander Morozevich wins XV Poikovsky Karpov Chess Tournament 2014:.

Having recently published two collections of Morozevich's combinations, I am glad to see that the former world's #2 player is in top form again. To recap, in the Practical Tactics Series: Attack with Alexander Morozevich - Selected Games and Best Combinations - includes Morozevich's combinations as White, while “Counterattack with Alexander Morozevich” focuses on his games as Black.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Best Tools to Work with Chess PGN Files

Today I will give a brief overview of how well different Chess Database software packages support the PGN file format.

Fritz - reads and writes
ChessBase (multiple versions on various platforms, including Light/Full, Windows/Mobile, etc) - reads and writes, except for CB Light
Chess Assistant (Full and Light) - read and writes
ChessX - reads, but writes have some issues
SCID - reads, but does not write

(If you know of another software that supports PGN files - please leave a comment.)

With so many tools that support PGN files, does that mean that you can use them interchangeably to update the same files? Yes and no. The major caveats are as follows:
  • Each tool exports moves with a slightly different new line format
  • Each tool (or even different versions of the same software) updates headers in its own way, putting PGN header tags in a different order. That results in issues such as player names in the game headers cannot read properly by some versions of the same packages. 
  • Additional formatting, such as arrows, diagrams, highlighted squares, and engine evaluations also follow a different convention. So arrows you draw in Fritz, will likely show up as garbage if you open up the same PGN file in Chess Assistant and vice versa. What's even worse - if you add a diagram for a position in Chess Assistant, hoping to be able to print it from Fritz, you'd be in for a disappointment.

To learn more about this (and to possibly bypass some of these issues) - read my recent post Editing Pgn Files without ChessBase or Other Database Program – Syntax Highlighting or other posts I wrote about PGN.

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