Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Monroi is evil

In case you don't know, Monroi makes I-Pod shaped widgets that you can use to enter games in tournaments and to look at those moves later (no chess engine (what do you expect for their really cheap price of 359 dollars) though I am waiting for someone to win the World Open by hacking into the Monroi and installing one (or, someone could insert their own hardware into a Monroi shell and use it to cheat)).

Who wants to spend zero dollars over their tournament career to write down their moves when they can have another expensive electronic gadget that only does one thing? Its ample features more than make up for my bad experiences with my Monroi: at my last tournament it malfunctioned, incorrectly recording every game as a loss and trasmitting this to the TD, and then it shot my dog, started stalking me, and eventually enslaved my family in a Turkish prison. But like I said, at just under 400 dollars after taxes, it was such a bargain I shouldn't complain.

Seriously, find out why Monroi, the company, deserves derision here. They suceeded in bullying Mig over at Daily Chess Dirt to change his posts and delete comments about their company over at his blog. While I have never been a regular reader of Mig's blog (I have never been all that interested in chess news/gossip as opposed to chess), we need to get our fellow bloggers' backs.

Feel free to add your own "Monroi Disaster" story in the comments (parodic or true, it's all good).

Just to avoid legal action, I should clarify that my Monroi didn't really shoot my dog: it stabbed him.

Hat tip: BCC blog.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More bloggage

The infamous Pawn Sensei seems to be making a comeback to blogging. He has been around since the early days, but took a break for the past six months or so. Good to see a post, Sensei.

Also, I just discovered Son of Pearl's blog,which provides a useful mixture of chess and chess news.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ouch. A painful loss as black

It was in a game for the King Assassins in the 45/45 league. If I had won, it would have put us up 2-0 in this round. As it stands now, we are tied 1-1 so the next two games will decide this round, and whether we win our division. The game, largely unannotated, is here. I was sure I had him starting around move 37, but he defended very well against a bunch of potential tactics and ended up winning. I Fritzed it, and while I had the right plan (push pawns) after move 38, I didn't find the right specific moves. This is one of those games that makes me think, "Why do I keep torturing myself with this %$#!-ing game?!"

Circle 4.2 is coming along well. I should finish it within three weeks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

When and why to study positional chess?

Redated from August 2006. This is worth repeating.

For your reading pleasure, an inspirational quote from Michael Stean's book on chess strategy, Simple Chess. I never tire of his elegant and insightful prose:
Don't be deceived by the title--chess is not a simple game--such a claim would be misleading to say the least--but that does not mean that we must bear with the full brunt of its difficulty. When faced with any problem too large to cope with as a single entity, common sense tells us to break it down into smaller fragments of manageable proportions. For example, the mathematical problem of dividing one number by another is not one that can in general be solved in one step, but primary school taught us to find the answer by a series of simple division processes (namely long division). So, how can we break down the 'problem' of playing chess?

Give two of the uninitiated a chessboard, a set of chessmen, a list of rules and a lot of time, and you may well observe the following process: the brighter of the two will quickly understand the idea of checkmate and win some games by 1. e4 2. Bc4 3. Qh5 4. Qxf7 mate. When the less observant of our brethren learns how to defend his f7 square in time, the games will grow longer and it will gradually occur to the players that the side with more pieces will generally per se be able to force an eventual checkmate. This is the first important 'reduction' in the problem of playing chess--the numerically superior force will win. So now our two novices will no longer look to construct direct mates, these threats are too easy to parry, but will begin to learn the tricks of the trade for winning material (forks, skewers, pins, etc.), confident that this smaller objective is sufficient. Time passes and each player becomes sufficiently competent not to shed material without reason. Now they begin to realize the importance of developing quickly and harmoniously and of castling the king into safety.

So what next? Where are their new objectives? How can the problem be further reduced? If each player is capable of quick development, castling and of not blundering any pieces away, what is there to separate the two sides? This is the starting point of Simple Chess. It tries to reduce the problem still further by recommending various positional goals which you can work toward, other things (i.e., material, development, security of king position) being equal. Just as our two fictitious friends discovered that the one with more pieces can expect to win if he avoids any mating traps, Simple Chess will provide him with some equally elementary objectives which if attained should eventually decide the game in his favor, subject to the strengthened proviso that he neither allows any mating tricks, nor loses any material en route.

Essentially, Simple Chess aims to give you some of the basic ideas for forming a long-term campaign. It also shows you how to recognize and accumulate small, sometimes almost insignificant-looking advantages which may well have little or no short-term effect, but are permanent features of the position. As the game progresses, the cumulative effect begins to make itself felt more and more, leading eventually to more tangible gains. Combinations and attacks are shelved for their proper time and place as the culmination of an overall strategy. Given the right kind of position it is not so difficult to overwhelm the opposition with an avalanche of sacrifices. The real problem is how to obtain such positions. This is the objective of Simple Chess.
While I am still kind of at the early stage of trying not to blunder material, this really whets my appetite!

Here is the Table of Contents:
1. Introduction (above is an excerpt)
2. Outposts
3. Weak pawns
4. Open files
5. Half-open files: the minority attack
6. Black squares and white squares
7. Space

Nezha recommended this book to me for an explanation of the importance of space: thanks, Nezha! Note this book really isn't for beginners, as he states in the Intro. The Idiots Guide To Chess is the best introduction to strategic concepts for novices that I own. This one is aimed more for people ~1500 or so, who don't blunder away material very frequently. However, I have looked it over and it is certainly quite readable even for this patzer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

New team web site

Thanks to my wife, who has just started working in web design, The King Assassins, my team in the 45/45 league, has a sweet new web site at

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First improved Grand Prix as white

Last night, I boned up on the improved Grand Prix Attack as white (1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 instead of 2. f4). Lo' and behold, in my game at ICC today I got white and black played the Sicilian, indeed the specific line within the GPA that I studied last night!

As I have been trying to do in general lately, I played aggressively, opening up my kingside to harass his queen. She ended up trapped and he resigned. The game is here.

Playing more aggressively is just fun. Move 8 (Nd5) was a gift from the tactical module I've been trying to develop the past two years. I was hoping he'd take my bishop so I could get the royal fork.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Circle 4.1 Finally Done!

I finally finished the probloems in level 4 of CTB (this included going over the ones I got wrong until I got them right). There were about 20 king and pawn endgames, and if I was unsure at all of the answer given by the program, I fired it up in Fritz. So far, the program has only one error in these endgames that I've found, where there is a long move sequence in which two (!) times it marked my moves wrong that were actually wins for white.

Hopefully Circle 4.2 won't take two months. I really want to be done with these bloody circles. I've been considering quitting the circles the past couple of days, but I think I'd regret it so I won't quit....just they say in AA, I'll quit tomorrow.

# CirclesPercent Correct
Problem Set 11498-99-100-100-100-100-100
Problem Set 21590-93-96-99-99-99-99-99
Problem Set 3885-93-97-99-99-99-99-100
Problem Set 4173
Problem Set 50
NOTE: Circles undertaken with CTB.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A new knight, and an old knight

Time for another sidebar update. Aaron, at Pawned no more has joined the circle of tactical nutballs. Welcome, Aaron! Also, it seems that Temposchlucker may be making a hesitant comeback, as he has another new post. I've optimistically put him on the active list.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tonight's tournament game

Tonight's tournament game in the 45/45 league can be found at this link without annotation. I won as white against some weird passive defense. I feel happy with this game.

I didn't make any horrible blunders, and I didn't make a bunch of passive moves in response to phantom threats like I usually do, I faced a hedghog like situation and didn't panic, I came up with a long-term plan that actually worked (castling queenside, but beforehand making threatening moves on the kingside to give me a head start on the pawn race that would undoubtedly ensue), and it was the first game in which I actually visualized a mate in four. Not too impressive, I know, as all the moves were forcing (with check), but still, I usually don't keep my head and do the analysis in such situations. I get lazy and make moves that look safe. My favorite move is 32 Qg6!. Instead of responding to the phantom threat of check from his queen on a1 (my coach yells at me every week for responding to phantom threats with moves that simply make my position passive and weak), I went in for blood after analyzing his check and seeing that it seems to leave him with nothing special.

Anyway, a fun game that gave our team the win for this round of the tournament.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Big weekend: my wife's graduation is Sunday. She is getting her Master's degree in Information Science at UNC (when it comes to college basketball, we live in a house divided). Her parents and my mom are here visiting. I'll try to sneak in some chess, as I have a league game Monday night.

In the circles front, I should finish circle 4.1 of CTB in a week (that is, Phase 4 of the program, circle 1). I have already done the problems once, but I then go through all the problems I missed until I get them right before moving on to the next mini-circle. I will likely get around 70% correct, significantly worse than Phase 3 (85% first time around), and significantly worse than I get in Level 10 of CT-Art (around 80% so far). For those thinking about doing the circles with CTB, you might consider doing circles in CT-Art level 10 before CTB Phase 4. Phase 4 of CTB is significantly harder than Phase 3.

And some sundry notes about the blogosphere:

Loomis is back in earnest, with his characteristically good chess content, and thoughtful comments on people's blogs.

The Knights are plugging along. As some of us predicted, Personal Chess Trainer seems to be a favorite amongst the newer Knights. I just bought the new 2007 version and agree with Abend that it is a significant improvement over the previous version.

Temposchlucker has a new post, which has a link to an important new scientific study of chess players. Since Tempo stopped blogging, seven new Knights have joined the party, such that there are now more third generation, post-Temposchlucker Knights than pre-tempo knights actively working the Circles. I will henceforth refer to dates as BT and PT.

Does this signal that Temposchlucker might be making a comeback to the lucrative world of blogging? I doubt it, but one can always hope.

Monday, May 07, 2007

King and pawn endgames...confused as usual...

To my horror, Chess Tactics for Beginners actually includes king and pawn endgames. Who do they think they are, insinuating crucial endgame knowledge into tactical software?

I am finding these KP endgames to be quite challenging. Hence, I'm using it as an opportunity to bone up on the theoreticals. In particular, the opposition. I used to think that once you have the opposition, you win. Obviously, this is false, as the following position demonstrates: Black to move, white has the opposition, so white wins right? Obviously, since white's king is outside the square of black's pawn, the opposition doesn't matter. So when does it matter? It matters, for one, when the defender's king is inside the square of the pawn (I use 'defender' to denote the side without the pawn, 'attacker' to denote the side with the pawn).

In those cases where the defender is in the square of the pawn, the attacker needs to get his king in front of the pawn with opposition to win. The opposition isn't even necessarily a useful way to get in front of the pawn. The only absolute is that you want the king in front of the pawn with opposition. Unfortunately, this means you have to do a lot of calculation, a lot of counting squares, to time it just right so that you achieve the holy grail of landing in front of your pawn with opposition. Is this right? If so, crap. I hate calculating, especially in the endgame when my brain wants to go to Hawaii. I was hoping for a simple square-of-the-pawn-style shortcut algorithm that would protect my precious brain from having to think in these simple endings. Am I right that no such algorithm exists? Also, what is the definition of being 'in front of' a pawn? Does it always mean on the same file in front of it?

Another apparently cool factoid I learned about is the opposition when the kings are not aligned on the same diagonal, file, or rank, the so-called 'misaligned' opposition. A player in this case has the opposition if it is the opponent's move and the rectangle drawn around the kings has the same color at each corner. So, for instance, in this example whoever isn't moving has the opposition (note same color of each corner of rectangle, which will happen whenever there is an odd number of ranks and files between the kings):This is nice and simple. So, if it is white to move, black must be very happy, as black has the opposition and is in the square of the pawn, right? Much to my dismay, wrong. White or black to move, white wins from this position. So my question is, what good is the misaligned opposition for the defender, and does anyone have an example where having the misaligned opposition actually does some good for the defender. That is, is the concept only apparently cool? (I found a similar problem with the diagonal opposition: put the black king on e6 in the above and it is still a win for white, with white to move).

Confused as usual...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How do you play when ahead?

Are you Leonidas, holding your shield high but with the sword held at the ready to disembowel your enemy, or are you the quivering little mouse with the head gear?

I had a very good meeting with coach tonight. We went over three losses from the last week. In all three games, I played well at first, gaining at least a two-pawn advantage in the middle game. Then I proceeded to play passively, stopped looking for ways to attack, and in the name of 'playing defensively' ended up letting my opponent get good piece activity or even letting down my guard so much that I blundered material of my own!

Coach's advice? Go for blood. Use your full army without mercy. Maximize the activity of that extra material and destroy your opponent. In general, take more risks: if there are two candidate moves that I can't decide between, pick the one that is more agressive. Play more like a kid learning chess who makes threats constantly (even if sometimes they crash and burn). That is the best way to learn the patterns of attack that will actually work.

Do the analysis, make sure you aren't blundering, but never sheath your sword! Leonidas implores, "Give them nothing! But take from them everything!"