An unexamined life is not worth living.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chess Composition - Eliminating Duplicate Solutions – Automatically?

Recently there have been headlines along the lines of "A Machine Composes Problems". The question I am interested in here however is a bit different - with so many chess problems and studies having been composed over the last two three hundred years, it would be curious to test their correctness in a fashion as automatic as possible.

The test would have to check both that the problem is correct, and that the problem one and only one solution. Loading a position into Fritz is obviously going to show that, but how would one automatically run a test on the entire database of checkmate  problems/studies/tactical solutions?

Has anyone heard of such an initiative and whether this has been ever done either by chess composers or engine authors?

I would imagine those two categories of people are probably quite interested in doing something like this.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Looking for a Large Chess Database

With a number of websites offering online chess databases proliferating (the Chessbase one looks nice), it is still surprisingly difficult to find a free large collection of chess games for download – at least from a legitimate source. Ok, not difficult – impossible. With the ICOFY project being suspended, my options are limited again to downloading TWIC updates and merging them to my existing older ICOFY database.

If anyone is aware of any new source of a relatively consistent free chess database for offline download in PGN, SCID or Chessbase formats – please post a comment or let me know!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why Less Is More When it Comes to Opening Repertoire

Garry Kasparov was notorious for claiming that during his most productive years as an opening researcher, his database of theoretical analysis grew in size by many megabytes. I would not be surprised if these files gave him a competitive advantage over many opponents. For a mere mortal, however, these megabytes of analysis are likely to be a burden for many reasons.
A large opening repertoire
  • takes longer to build in the first place
  • needs to be memorized and recalled during games
  • is more prone to errors in evaluations of critical positions, and as computers get stronger – needs to be periodically reassessed
  • may become useless when chess fashion moves to a different direction, and everybody stops playing those “sharp popular lines”
  • is more difficult to maintain and update over the years, even if it is digital

While you hope a larger opening repertoire gives you more flexibility, usually the reason your opening files grow large – is because your favourite opening lines give opponent a lot of options, and you have to consider all of them in your preparation. The key to making it manageable - is to limit those options by finding early but solid deviations that you are comfortable with, striking a balance between playing sound lines, and not falling into your opponent’s favourite variations.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Playing Chess online – Game Pools with Increments?

I am continuing to play 15 + minute games online in my quest to play 100 “Standard” games online this year, and I prefer games with small increment (15 +2) to avoid being flagged in ridiculously trivial positions, and also to emulate what it’s like to play in real tournaments, which also use increments. I mostly play on ICC, but I am occasionally struggling to find a game with my preferred time controls.

ICC has game pools with 3, 5 and 15 minutes per game, where it’s often easier to quickly find an opponent. image

But there is no 15+2 pool or anything similar, which I think is a shame.

I’d be curious to hear if there is a playing site that has such a feature.

UPDATE: as of July 30th, 2015, it seems that ICC heard this request from many other users as well, and added 25 + 10 and 10 + 5 pools, which roughly is what I was looking for! Here is their newsletter.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bad Chess Habits

Over the years, especially if those years are filled with routine, somehow most of us acquire bad habits. It takes some conscious mindfulness and cleanup to rid oneself of those harmful repetitive behaviors. Bad Chess habits are not as harmful as smoking or speed driving, but they can destroy one's pleasure from the game. If you are reading this, you very likely play chess for enjoyment, so I suggest pausing to give it some thought.

Here are some that come quickly to my mind:
  1. Using the engine for analysing your games
  2. Book flipping
  3. Chess News reading
  4. Video watching
  5. Excessive blitz playing
  6. Hoarding - books, software, etc
  7. Caring about rating at the expense of improvement
  8. Memorizing opening moves without understanding their meaning
  9. Jumping openings when results don't improve quickly enough
  10. Finding excuses for losses without looking at root problems

The list is definitely not complete, and there is something that is more true for some chess players than for others.

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