Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Circle 1.2, Day 16

Lots of queen sacrifices the past few days.

Circle #1.11.2
Total #719719
# Done719370
% Correct9298
NOTE: Circles done with CTB.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Anti-Sicilians: and it comes down to two

I am trying to decide between playing the Grand Prix Attack (GPA: 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4) and the Smith-Morra Gambit (SMG: 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3) as white when I hit the Sicilian. Both lead to tactically rich games, with a lot less theory than the main lines.

My thinking thus far biases me toward the SMG. For one, there is more beginner material out there for Smith-Morra, in particular my favorite opening book has a great chapter on it. Also, you are more likely to get lines you have studied, while in contrast in the GPA there is a lot more wriggle-room for black, even as early as move two (e.g., black often will not play 2...Nc6, but in the SMG, black almost always plays cxd4). In favor of the GPA, the pawn structure is very similar to that seen in the King's Gambit declined, which I already am pretty used to as white. This could mean less stuff to learn on my part.

Because of all this, I am leaning toward Smith-Morra. Anyone have any opinions on this matter? If your answer is "Play 2. Nf3", you haven't answered my question. :)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My first 45/45 tournament game: No more pie!

I recently joined a team in the 45/45 League that plays at ICC. I play the fourth (i.e., last) board in our under 1300 division team.

I had my first game tonight, and played as black. I won. You can view an annotated version of the game here. I knew he played the Guico and that he likes to transpose to the four knights, so I prepared for that last night, which helped a lot. As usual, I played passively, but except for one move, don't think I earned any double question marks (I think I earned a few ?'s, though).

The slow time controls are fantastic: I was able to take as much time as I wanted for each move. This, in my opinion, is what chess is all about. As my opponent said afterwards, blitz games are just pie-throwing contests.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pawn storm: When is it called for?

When is it time to start a pawn storm? Is anything good written on this topic that someone can point to?

So far, I have seen that when you have castled on opposite sides, you should consider storming her king with pawns rather than pieces. When castled on the same side, consider storming her king with pieces rather than pawns, so you can maintain king safety.

But there's got to be more to it than that.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Circle 1.2, Day 7

Also working on my opening as white, in particular lines when it transposes to king's gambit declined. There are some very tricky lines there...

Circle #1.11.2
Total #719719
# Done719240
% Correct9297

Friday, June 16, 2006

Two sweet new resources

First, a great new site to find chess books, Chess Books Online. Two young chaps from the Netherlands have started it. They emailed me to let me know about it, and said that my blog is "informative and not at all inconvenient." Hmmm.

Second, I just got The Vienna Game, a ChessBase CD put together by Canadian FIDE Master Gregory Huber. It covers the Vienna and Bishop's openings, as they so often transpose into one another. It is fantastic: the explanation of plans and traps in the introduction is much more detailed and useful than for any other ChessBase CD I own, and better than any book I own on any opening. It is written for someone just starting out with the opening, someone who is not a GM, who needs some of the basic positions pointed out and clearly explained. Carsten Hansen says:
Huber has made a phenomenal effort in exploring these openings in depth. He clearly presents all the current data, with all sidelines labeled and evaluated, along with adding hundreds of his own suggestions and improvements over existing theory. This is an excellent effort, which I hope will find a wide readership. Anyone playing these opening as White or Black will definitely want to obtain this CD.
I concur!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Circle 1.2, Day 2

Still mate in one, but they are getting more complicated. CTB is a great program.

Circle #1.11.2
Total #719719
# Done719140
% Correct9298

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Circle 1.2, Day 1

I finished going over the problems I got wrong in Circle 1. To cement the problems in my mind a bit more I'm doing Circle 1 again. Today, sixty easy mate-in-one problems, by theme (I am going bareback, blind to the theme, starting with Circle 3).

It is really fun, as I get into a pleasant cognitive rhythm: if I do this check, will his king be able to escape? Will he be able to interpose? Will he be able to capture? If not, mate his sorry butt.

Circle #1.11.2
Total #719719
# Done71960
% Correct92100

Friday, June 09, 2006

Good new Fritz 9 vision training features

There is a pretty good article about them here. They are attack training (click on all the pieces under attack), check training (click on all pieces that can deliver check), and defense training (click on all pieces that are not defended by other material).

A couple of days ago I starting doing attack training for three minutes every morning. So far, my highest number in three minutes is 16 17. What numbers do other Knights get? (I am not sure what that number means: correct clicks per minute? Total correct clicks?)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Progress Report

I'm still working through the problems I got wrong in the first Circle. Because of the delay with the tournament and such, I will probably repeat Circle 1 before going on to Circle 2. I have also started using Fritz 9's excellent 'Attacking Training' option, where you have to click on all the pieces under direct attack (for both sides) in a given amount of time. This is a great feature for this patzer: I still have a problem missing my opponent's pieces that I should be grabbing (under time trouble, I left a rook en prise in the tournament last weekend, for instance). This is a humbling exercise, as I sometimes take up to a full minute to see and click all the attacked pieces on a board! It is clearly a pattern-recognition skill that I need to work on, and I would probably include it in the Chess Vision Drills after the Concentric Squares if I were starting over.

As for opening stuff, in the tournament this weekend, I was unprepared against a basic variation of the queen's gambit accepted as black. After 1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 he played e4. An obvious move that I should be prepared for. I wasn't. This got me into serious trouble by move 10.

There are two points about studying openings that the tournament helped me learn.
1. I have been studying openings wrong. I was studying them slowly, methodically, up to fourteen moves deep, making sure to understand the ins and outs of each reasonable-looking response by my opponent. As everyone knows, this is a mistake. I figured, I'll just play based on principles as I slowly build up a badass, GM-level, opening repertoire. There are two problems with this. First, as everyone knows, things rarely follow book out past four to six moves, especially at my level. Second, while I may know certain lines really well, there are other lines that are likely to occur in real games that I have completely neglected. It is time to sacrifice depth for breadth.

2. Because of my desire to go for depth rather than breadth, it is very tempting to study an opening 'system' which consists of basically the same move order no matter what the opponent plays. Unfortunately, such systems (e.g., 1...b6 for black, or the English for white) are typically in the hypermodern style and involve giving up space in the center. I hate the resulting middlegames. Oh well.

Hence, I have decided to change my study of openings to conform to what all the best instructors say. No matter how tempted I am to do otherwise, I am not allowed to study any line more than four moves in (eight ply). No matter how obvious and dangerous my opponent's response looks, I am not going to let myself explore it until I encounter it in a real game. Once I have my four-move opening book for all the major possibilities, then I am not allowed to expand the book, only study it, until things go off book in a real, as opposed to imaginary, game. Once I see something in a real game that is not in my book, I can then extend that line for four more moves (no more). This more practical opening book will be most likely to help me in real games.

So, here is my plan. As white, develop response (after 1. e4), to:
a. e5
b. Sicilian
c. French
d. Scandinavian
e. Pirc/Modern

As black, develop responses to:
a. e4 (I've already got a lot on this)
b. d4
c. c4

I've got the books. I just need to use them. My goal is to finish the book before my first game in the next 45/45 tournament game I play in (which will be sometime after June 20).

The Rule of Ten is still in effect. That is, I am still focusing in on tactics more than anything else.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I want to play in the 45/45 league

If anyone knows of any teams in the U1300 section of the 45/45 League who want an 1100-rated player (right now I am 1152), please let me know. No more games under 30/30 for me!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I'd give the experience a 2 out of 4 (so, a C)

Played in my second tourney today. Drove a total of 10 hours yesterday and today, so am very tired.

I scored 2/4, winning both games as white. In one loss the guy, rated 1220ish, was flat out way better than me, playing the Fritz moves on basically every turn (I checked). Second loss, against 1030-rated spoiled little brat who will probably end up going to Duke someday, I was in serious time trouble and let him keep a rook he had left en prise because I was worried about a phantom threat and was in a rush. I wanted to drown myself after that oversight. One of my wins was a cheapo: I beat an 1130 with a Fried-Liver Attack, and mated him in 10 moves. The other win was against a ~700 rated player who moved all his pawns before his pieces, though put up quite a good fight the whole game. It was clear I was winning, so he tried to beat me on time, as he told me later. What a joy. I felt like my time-management skills were being tested more than any other of my chess skills today.

My overall impression? I don't ever want to participate in a tournament with 30 minute time controls again. It just wasn't enough time to really think through any moves that requried real thinking. In two of the games I was down to the wire and playing bullet chess at the end. At ICC, games of 30/30 are the minimum if I'm really gonna focus and think. I think I'll join the 45/45 league or something.

I met a few nice people, though some people clearly have the social skills of math grad students. An interesting mixture of older ubernerds (like me) and children of anxious yuppies. I don't think I learned any more about chess than I would have in four slow games at ICC. Add the driving time and expenses in, both of which I could have spent on chess, and it probably isn't the best use of my time if I want to improve at this game.

On a positive note, it was an absolutely beautiful venue: a campground nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina. There was a nice pond there with paddleboats, and the weather was perfect: 70s sunny and no humidity.

Next time I play in a tournament, it will have minimal 45 minute games!