Friday, June 29, 2007

Do the sidebar shuffle

It's the latest craze sweeping the nation!

Welcome to our newest Knight, The Retired Pawn. Huzzahhh! He seems to be doing the prefab circles, that is, using PCT. Maybe he'll be the first to actually finish that program amongst the Knights!

A couple of updates. The Common Man has gone 404. We'll miss ya bud. Just in case you missed it, Down Under Knight has joined the Knights of Insanity. And in birthdays, Pawn Shaman's blog just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

Keep your eye on Sir Rocky Rook. He has begun accelerated set of circles with 500 problems and should be done next week. Along a similar vein, Rise and Shine is kicking his ass into high gear so he can finish his circles in July. Whippersnappers!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The following is an exhaustive system for classifying chess bloggers. Which one(s) are you? Disclaimer: those with thin skin might want to stop here...I tried to insult pretty much everyone. If you suspect one of them was written specifically with you in mind, you are probably right.

1. Phlogiston. A blogger without ego.

2. The scholar. Sucks at chess, but that never made him stop pontificating about the game.

3. The entrepeneur. Someone whose advertising content takes up a larger surface area of his blog than the chess content.

4. The newbie. Usually very excited, and will attack with vigor subjects that have been beaten to death before he got here. E.g., will excitedly let everyone know about this great web site 'Chess Tactics Server' and this guy 'Dan Heisman' who has this great idea of playing 'real chess.' Every six months one will come along and tell us why the Circles are stupid because they ignore strategy, which after all, gives you the types of positions that will lead to tactical opportunities (enough so that we have a FAQ question devoted to this newbie).

5. The workaday. Consistently publishes good content, updates consistently, doesn't whine, and generally offers sympathetic and unsanctimonious help to others. Hmmm....too bad phlogiston is already taken.

6. DK-Transform. Deserves his own category. An interesting mixture of vulnerability, passion, and workaholism. At first you will be tempted to say 'TMI' to everything he says, but he will probably grow on you.

7. The disgruntled grad student. What better way to procastinate writing that thesis than to write about a frivolous game that you shouldn't be playing because you need to write?

8. The cool one. The person who spends hours writing about chess on a blog, but thinks he is not a geek.

9. The outsider. Writes about other blogs, historical treatises on openings, provides annotated games, but never really lets us in. Penny for your thoughts? What are you scared of, Mr Outsider? Let us inside. Let us love you.

10. Resident GM. In the chess blogosphere subculture, the player who is top dog on the board that everyone defers to in ultimate arguments about chess.

11. The gossip. Writes not about chess, but what chess players are doing.

12. The absent father. The old-time blogger that has gone inactive, who everyone respects, and every now and then comes and leaves a cryptic comment on your blog, or even his own blog. Everyone rejoices, "Daddy is home, yeah, maybe he'll pay attention to me again!" But then you hear those words, "I'm just going out for some cigarettes. I'll be right back."

13. The tease. It was a chess blog, but what the hell happened to it? Now all we're reading about is fishing and job hunting.

14. The self-hater. Cannot write a post without reminding us how much he sucks at chess.

15. The egomaniac. Puts (TM) after every phrase, as if every utterance coming out of her mouth were an original brilliant insight that must be copyrighted.

16. The pedant. He will always be very patient in educating you in a condescending manner. If you question him, he will either not reply, or give another condescending answer that ends with, "Hope that helps." Often overlaps with the scholar personality (see # 2).

17. The bore. His finger notes at ICC include a fifteen page autobiographical essay, so you have to spend five minutes scrolling up in the command window just to see his ratings. Typically the notes will include a long list of people he likes and dislikes, as if anyone cares, a long list of physical ailments, and five pages about his opinion on takebacks. (OK, this has nothing to do with blogging: I call artistic license).

18. The Creationist. His confidence in his opinions about chess is three orders of magnitude greater than his actual knowledge of the game. Likes to write reviews of chess books he hasn't read.

19. The cusser. An entry is not done until it contains the word "fuck."

20. Whiney McGee. Would rather complain than improve. Any attempts at help are rebuffed in great detail, a protective mechanism built to maintain the integrity of the whiney personality core.

21. Passive aggressive. Hides his rage behind stupid humor like long lists that make fun of other bloggers. Also likes to use the passive voice to criticize what "some people" say, when it is clear that he is referring to one particular person, but he doesn't have the balls to be forthright.

22. Rat. Talks himself in circles blogging about the same topic for fifteen posts.

23. Circle Jerk. Someone into MDLM to an annoying and overbearing degree.

24. Actuary. Feels compelled to share uninterestingly detailed accounts of his chess progress, usually with annotated graphs.

25. Acountant. Breaks down the statistics from his blog's hit counter every other post, analyzing readership trends and pointing out moments of maximum activity ('And here is when I made that funny post about the Macaque opening').

26. Neglected baby. His blog contains regular tantrums to the effect that, "Whaaahh, nobody is commenting on my blog!"

27. Has-been. Likes to talk about how great he used to be at chess, back in the 70s. Much like those 50 year old guys with no life that can't stop talking about that great play they made in high school football.

28. Beggar. Someone strolling the streets of the blogosphere begging for sidebar links. "Spare a link, sir, got any spare links?" Often a newbie that doesn't realize people link to sites they read and like.

29. Comment fluffer (attention whore). Fills your comments with irrelevant and sometimes lengthy clutter that serves only to distract readers from the main thread. Sometimes acts like a neglected baby when you don't reciprocate at his blog (the latter trait suggests he was leaving comments just to get you to read his own blog).

30. Stalker. Throw him a bone by leaving a comment at his blog, and he thinks you are the best of friends. He will start to email you daily, try to get your phone number or meet in person, message you constantly at ICC, learn all he can about you through Google, and refer to you as a "close friend." All because you left this high-maintenance twit a comment on his blog. Give this batshit crazy stalker a wide radius.

31. Hypersensitive nutball. Rumor has it that if he steps in front of the sun, you can literally see his vital organs because his skin is so thin. God forbid you disagree with anything he says, as it will cause him to have a temper-tantrum like a three year old girl who wants a pony. Logic isn't his strong point, but he excels at ruining discussions by turning them personal and awkward. This person always has comment moderation enabled, and will often devote entire posts to responding to something that hurt his feelings.

32. Blog luddite. He is stuck in paper-and-ink ways of thinking. He refuses to put game graphics on his chess blog, preferring long lists of variations as you might find in an opening book from the 1970s. He thinks anyone who doesn't take the time to work through the variations is just lazy. When he was a boy, before eating breakfast he had to work through 30 lines without help of diagrams, board, commentary, or computers. By Joe, if he didn't need technology, you don't need it either ya' lazy bum.

33. College kid. Only leaves comments at your blog when he has just put up a new post, as he wants visitors at his own blog. Much like a college kid who only calls home when he needs money.

You call that a knife?

Please welcome the newest Knight Errant, Down Under Knight to our spiral of madness.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday funnies

Taken from Edward Collins' wonderful page of chess-related comic strips from the past 25 years.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Just play 1...d5. If it's true, and it is, that openings don't really matter at my level, why shouldn't I play the Scandy and be done with all this flippin' theory? It's driving me crazy, as my last post attests.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ruy Lopez as black: the Zaitshall Attack

I have banged my head for a few months now trying to find how to play against the Ruy as black. Frankly, there is nothing that doesn't have some problems, but I really wanted something that would create a more dynamic, open, tactically challenging game. Hopefully the following summary of my findings will help other patzers out there trying to navigate the crazy world of the Ruy from Black's perspective.

A. Berlin
The Berlin defense starts out 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6:

I originally thought, hey, why make an early pawn push when I can simply develop? Unfortnately, this position commonly ends up looking a lot like the exchange variation of the Ruy, which I just find not too much fun. In most lines, white takes the night on c6 with his Bishop, so white ends up with a better pawn structure. Not enough fireworks for me (and this is representative of pretty much every suggestion in Kaufman's The Chess Advantage in Black and White, which could be called 'Playing for a draw as black and white'). The obvious option for black if he wants dynamic play is the open Ruy.

2. The Open Ruy
This arises after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4.
This certainly looks open and exciting, and white's "best" move is 6. d4! which leads to fun and dynamic play for both sides. Unfortunately, I tried out the Open Ruy as black for a few weeks and in ZERO percent of my games did my opponent play d4. They always (100%) play Re1. This is certainly playable, but again leads to exchange-like positions, as white almost always ends up taking the Knight on c6 with his Bishop at some point after the Knight moves out of the way of the impending rook. White quickly gets his pawn back, and we are in another sort of slow exchange-like game. Also, all the material I have on the open ruy spends maybe one or two paragraphs on the Re1 variation! I want something where there is more guidance, more out there at the GM level that I can study so I don't have to do all the thinking (after all, I want most of my time to be devoted to tactical training and playing, not studying openings!).

So, no Open Ruy for me, at least until I am good enough that my opponents don't wimp out and play the quiet line. So now my main option is either some kind of closed Ruy (Chigorin or Zaitsev) or the Marshall attack. I'll look at the Marshall attack first.

3. Marshall Attack
We reach the Marshall after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3 d5!
Now this is what I'm talking about! Crazy, open, gambit, sharp, fun line for black. It is such a dangerous weapon in skilled hands that Kasparov never allowed it, playing the anti-Marshall line 8. a4 every time he saw 7...0-0 (frankly I'm still not sure why it is anti-Marshall and why black can't just go ahead with 8...d5: feel free to tell me why in the comments). Note that the correct line for black against the anti-Marshall is 8...Bb7, which will become important below.

The Marshall. That's what I want. My coach is excited by this decision, thinks it will spice up my Ruy, and that it is an extremely solid opening. Unfortunately, there are a couple of hitches. As I said above, I want something for which there is a lot of guidance. The Marshall Attack books are not complete repertoires: they start out with move 8 from white! There are tons of possibilities before move eight, especially at my level.

So it isn't enough just to book up on the Marshall. The first seven moves are standard Closed Ruy fare. Hence, I want material on either the Chigorin or the Zaitsev that will help me out with these earlier move orders. Unfortunately, there is no black equivalent of Greet's miraculous Play the Ruy Lopez, but there are a couple of books out there that have helped me make up my mind.

4. Closed Ruy Lopez
The closed Ruy starts with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0-0 9. h3, and the next move determines whether you will end up in the Chigorin (9...Na5) or Zaitsev (9...Bb7):
Both of these moves have their strenghts and weaknesses. In the Chigorin the Knight on a5 ends up looking rather silly and can become a liability, but in the Zaitsev white often plays d5, which makes the Bishop look silly. Both systems are strong, both are used at the upper echelons of chess praxis, so you can grow into them.

The question is, which will fit in better with the Marshall attack? I alluded to this above. First note that to play the Marshall I won't actually play 7...d6, but 7....0-0, preparing 8...d5! However, if black plays the anti-Marshall 8. a4, then Bb7 is the best response. Lo and behold, this sets up a position quite similar to the Zaitsev in its overall structure, with similar strengths and weaknesses.

This rather transparently suggests what my plan should be. I am going to aim for the Marshall attack, but if white doesn't let me then I will continue on with a more standard Zaitsev repertoire in this new book (note, Marin's new book is based on the Chigorin (I ordered it direct from the publisher as who knows when Amazon will have it)).

I baptize this mongrel repertoire The Zaitshall Attack.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Board visualization: does it matter?

Check out the interesting article Training in chess: a scientific approach, where the authors give advice on the best way to train based on the psychological data (the primary author was a PhD student of deGroot). Thanks to Ray Cheng for bringing this article to my attention.

Following are some interesting snippets from the article:

Blindfold chess
We believe that playing blindfold chess is at best useless, and at worst harmful to one’s development. The ability of playing blindfold comes more as a side effect of having acquired a well organized and easily accessible knowledge base (Ericsson & Staszewski, 1989; Saariluoma, 1995). Practicing blindfold as such may be harmful when it interferes with other types of training.

Chess coaches [tempo...]
Although the necessity of having a coach is sometimes debated (e.g., Charness, Krampe, & Mayr, 1996), we believe that it is a key factor of success—most grandmasters had a coach at some point of their career. Finally, research in education has shown that students take more advantage of a private tutor than from a tutor shared in a classroom (Bloom, 1984; Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik). We believe that this is the case with chess as well.

Tactical training
Again, most chess trainers and teachers agree that practice and repetition are essential (e.g., Bönsch, 1987; Kotov, 1971). Traditional “quiz” books are quite useful, although we expect computer technology to greatly improve this part of chess teaching...It is probably best to start with positions ordered by themes, then to move to positions randomly ordered (as is fairly usual among the quiz books). [Italics added]

Opening study
[O]ne should focus on a limited number of types of positions and openings, and learn the various methods in these positions thoroughly. This focus is necessary due to the limited study time available and to the wealth of information to learn. As discussed below, this focus also facilitates access to the information through pattern recognition.

[W]ithin a restricted repertoire, the required repetition and the predictive value of generalizations is likely to lead to rules more usefully applicable to later games than the less specific and less predictive knowledge derived from multi-opening systems.

Chess scholars
[O]ne should avoid spending too much time on historical and anecdotal details. Although such information may be useful in indexing knowledge, it has several disadvantages. It can become an overwhelming mass of information, dangerously attractive but not useful for competition.

Calculation training
[T]raining depth of search per se is unlikely to yield good results. Rather, depth of search should be seen as a consequence of acquiring a large knowledge base, which, through chunking of moves and creation of templates, leads to a more selective and efficient search.

It is worth pointing out that, even for improving depth of search, it is more efficient to improve one’s knowledge base than one’s ability to look-ahead. Assuming a search with constant depth, we find that weak players (slow search speed and low knowledge) increase their depth of search more by increasing their knowledge than their search ability. Players with low search speed but with high knowledge (that is, high selectivity) actually search deeper than players with high search speed but with low knowledge. Although the assumption of constant depth of search is not quite plausible, this demonstration makes our point clear: selective search due to knowledge is more useful than sheer search speed. In addition, searching without knowledge has a high likelihood of missing a good opportunity (something well known by chess program designers), because even fast searchers can cover only a very small portion of the search space.

Studying the "classic" games
[O]ne word about studying classics. This clearly has advantages, as is often stressed in the literature. For example, ideas are easier to understand in these games than in contemporary games, because the quality of defense was lower and games were more centered around a single theme than is the case nowadays. Classical games were
also less obscured by many subtleties in the opening. However, there is the danger that, in addition to overloading LTM with anecdotal material, studying classics leads to the creation of schemata that will not be useful in practice, because the type of positions met in these games is unlikely to be seen again. This disadvantage is not fatal, however, and may be avoided by studying a judicious mixture of classical and modern games.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Board visualization: I suck rotten salmonilla-marinated eggs

This is a rambling search for truth in the tradition of temposchlucker.

I have been working on visualizing the board 'blindfold.' I realized, as soon as I started trying to visualize positions with pieces, that I can't even visualize the bloody board. Since the board is broken up into four identical quadrants (see Figure A) I have been trying to simply visualize such quadrants with a high degree of accuracy.

Each quadrant has a dark 'forward slash' long diagonal, a light 'backward slash' diagonal, with two mini-diagonals of length two running parallel to the long diagonals, hugging the corners of each quadrant (Figure B). However, Figure B is a somewhat unnatural way to view things. Figure C shows a more natural perspective, highlighting all the light squares (the long diagonal and the two corner-huggers). However, this isn't enough to visualize the white diagonals perpendicular to the long white diagonal, which are shown in Figure D.

Integrating Figures C and D (Figure E) yields the most complete image of the light squares which will be useful to be able to visualize in my sleep: a rectangle bounds the six squares perpendicular to the long diagonal, which is a lone line in a world of rectangles.

This general picture can be seen in the following figure that illustrates the diagonal-rectangles for all the squares on the full board.

And it turns out this is basically the perspective on the board that is advocated at this site, which has a useful discussion of the mathematical properties of these rectangles.

If I suck at visualizing the raw board (partly because in games I use the board as an external memory source rather than commit it to memory), how long before I can play blindfold chess?

And the above is itself a sort of limited view of the board. It shows the board from the point of view of bishops and a third of a queen (i.e., the bishop aspect of the queen's movement). Though I assume once I have the above down, visualizing straight lines should be easy.

Circle 4.3 Done

Performance is slowly improving. I no longer feel like I'm in over my head with these problems. I've finally realized that what makes this group of problems harder is the large number of decoys and deflections involved. It isn't enough just to see a one-move pin anymore. It is required to think, "Hmm, if his queen were moved here, then I could capture a bishop while forking his queen and king, winning a Bishop." There are lots of problems like that.

Also, I am starting to keep a list of all the King and Pawn endgames in this section so I can later go through them all in Fritz and list all the errors therein. There aren't many errors, but I'd like to create a list for future Knights. There are about 25 such problems (out of 300+).

Blitz is chugging along. I decided I don't like the Dutch Defense, and am going back to the Queen's Gambit Accepted. I have started playing the King's Gambit as white, which is really just insane. Some lines leave white's kingside awfully porous (even with 'optimal' play according to Gallagher). We'll see how long I last with this before going back to the Ruy. I'll probably just play both depending on my mood and on how important the game is (important games: Ruy!).

# 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 4373-87-93
Problem Set 50
NOTE: Circles undertaken with CTB.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just say No

A public service announcement from Nancy Reagan.

Friends, I am here to talk with you about a horrible danger to the American family. It afflicts approximately 2 million of our households that we know of, but the stigma is so great that the real numbers are probably much higher than polls suggest.

I am here to talk with you today about Blitz chess.

Blitz chess afflicts many otherwise normal, or "real", chess players. While it may seem innocuous at first, Blitz chess can quickly become a daily habit. Indeed, studies show that Blitz chess is a gateway time control which often leads to bullet chess, the least "real" of all forms of chess.

How can you tell if you or a loved one has a problem with Blitz chess? There are no hard and fast rules, but the following questionnare offers a list of symptoms. If you answer 'Yes' to three or more of these questions, then you probably have a problem with Blitz.

1. You tell yourself 'Just one more game' more than five times a night.
2. You switch to a new group of friends because your old friends don't approve of your Blitz play.
3. Even in long games you begin making speculative sacrifices on move three just to "get your opponent in time trouble."
4. You must wear an ice pack around your wrist when playing online.
5. Every opening you play is a gambit which would never be used by a GM.
6. You find yourself enjoying chess more than you used to, even wanting to play it with family and friends (who used to get a raging bore on with your desire for 'a long game').
7. You get angry when players suggest you have a problem with Blitz.
8. You have thought, "I can go back to slow games any time I want, I just don't want to right now."
9. You have engaged in two or more blog posts defending the usefulness of Blitz play.
10. Your name is DK-Transform or XY.

Once you recognize that you want help, what can you do? Aside from attending BA meetings, you should work through the following steps at your own pace:

1. Admit you have a Blitz problem, and that this has made your life a mess.
2. Come to believe that only Dan Heisman can make you better.
3. Turn your will and life over to Heisman, and stop playing Blitz.
4. Make amends with your friends who play "real" chess so that, hopefull, they will let you back in their club.
5. Having had an epiphany as a result of these steps, become a proselytyzer for "real" chess, go into the blogosphere to badger, condescend, and generally spread your love of "real" chess so that others may know there is a way out.

Thank you for taking the time to read this urgent message about the dangers of Blitz chess. I know too many families who have been ravaged by this virulent form of gamemanship. Just say "No" to Blitz.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Nugget slapper

A CTB problem I got wrong tonight (Black to move, answer in comments):

Friday, June 15, 2007


Underpromoted Knight is back. Apparently during his lapse in blogging he has been hitting the exercises and finished his Circles. His blog, the Eighth Circle, will chronicle his chess life after the circles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

To Blitz or not to Blitz

The following is from Hard Days Knight's comment to my previous post, and is so good it deserves its own post.

With apologies to William:

To blitz or not to blitz that is the question,
Whether tis nobler among knights to suffer the torture
Of many hours of a lost position,
Or to make haste against a sea of chess problems,
And by blitzing end them? To blitz, to blitz!
To play!; and by that blitzing to say we end
The heart-ache of long, tedious, lost positions
That our game is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To blitz!,
Perchance to win!: ay, there's the rub;
For in that blitz what effects may come
When we have hurriedly pushed our pieces down the board,
Must give us pause; there's the respect for Heisman
That makes calamity of so short a game.
For who would bear pins and discovered attacks,
The checkmates, and lost games
When he himself might his deliverance take,
With blitz? who would positions study,
To grunt and sweat under 40/45, 40/90, 40/120,
But that the dread of the effects of 2 12,
The undiscove'd country of blitz from whose bourn,
No player returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
then fly to others we know not of.
Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all!
But soft you now!
The fair Cassia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my blitz remember'd.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My voice is changing

I think chess puberty has set in.

I am no longer playing like a frightened chipmunk, but more like an overeager teenager desperate for some action. Speculative attacks that crash and burn, opening the positions up like a madman, positional principles be damned (what's a weak square on h6 if your opponent is a queen down?!). It is fun. I am no longer petrified that I will misanalyze a position or miss an obvious tactic. I am playing with the assumption that I am better at tactics and calculation than my opponent, making the position crazy complicated, and seeing what happens. I don't even care that this assumption is often wrong: playing this way will force me to get better at tactics and calculation.

This is what chess is supposed to be about. This is how I will learn when attacks are premature and when they are called for: try out some attacks and see what works, and build up that experience which will lead to the ability to seize the initiative and attack when the position calls for it.

What has changed? I think it is partly reading Chandler's How to beat your dad at chess. It is like a recipe book for developing devastating attacks on the opponent's king. The textual explanations there, coupled with seeing nearly all of the motifs from that book in CTB, has turned a lightbulb on in my head: these little 1-3 move sequences in CTB are part of a larger game, one in which someone took a risk and went in for the kill. Or, if that is not in fact what happened, if in fact the positions from the book emerged from boring positional struggles in which the evaluation was 0.0 for 60 moves, I don't care. I need to learn how to crank open my opponents' defenses like a sardine can and commit regicide.

As part of this new awakening, I am changing my game plans. I am still working on the Circles, but I am going to play 3-6 blitz games a day, analyze them in Fritz, and keep a record of the tactical motifs I am missing, the opening mistakes I am making (including frequency of opening seen as well as win-loss-tie stats). I am sick of long games. I want to loosen up for a while, DK-Transform style, and just go for broke. Yes, blitz games will screw up my thought process for a while. But they will also teach me real-game tactical motifs, opening principles, and give me experience. I started this game 2 years ago and have focused so much on cautious, careful play in slow games that I have missed out on a world of crazy fun chess.

Here is one blitz game from last night. Afterwards I Fritzed it to look for dramatic evaluation fluctuations, looked at my opening book, noted the error I made, and moved on. It took about 5 minutes.

My coach, incidentally, has been telling me almost every time we meet: you are good. You just need to play more, build up experience with chess. Play blitz. While all the books say to play slow games, my coach knows me personally and I'm paying him big bucks to help me. I should listen to him and see where it goes. He has said I need to play more recklessly, like a scholastic player would. Yeehaaa, I'm full of testosterone! I'm not going totally mad: I'm not gonna play the Scandinavian or anything like that, or go for scholar's mate in every game. I'm gonna stick with my openings and follow principles as much as possible. But if it looks like I might have an attack, but I can't calculate it out to N moves to see if it will work, I'm gonna go for it. This will build up that intuition and experience you guys are always talking about.

Tonight I played 3 games. One win, one draw, one loss. Three funs.

Incidentally, if you look at people's ratings at ICC, everyone's standard rating is about 200 points higher than their blitz rating. My blitz rating is about 400 points lower. What will happen if I increase my blitz performance? I take blitz to be an indicator of tactical prowess, opening knowledge, and ability to think and perform under pressure. I need to learn all of those things more than anything right now. Daily education in practical tactical motifs that I miss in real games is one component of my tactical training that I haven't been getting.

We'll see if I like this pace and style.

Post edited by DK-transform. It was only ten words long initially, and he made me pad it.

Kant rules.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pawn storms: when are they called for?

Clip from a recent game where I successfully pummeled my opponent with a pawn storm (I'm black). Pawn storms are fun, but I am never sure when they are called for. Has anything good been written that is focused on this topic (I typically see it in annotated games, but they are just describing what is happening: I haven't seen any principled treatise on when they are called for).

Here are some cases in which I consider a pawn storm (which I define as advancing a line of pawns to cause major material or positional defects (is that a good definition?)):
1. Opposite sided castling. This is the easiest to spot, and is almost always called for.
2. Minority attack (when you have fewer pawns on one side of the board, you can often wreak havoc on his position by advancing your pawns). I am not very good at spotting when this is appropriate or not.
3. When my opponent has locked down his position (e.g., a hedgehog type position), is playing very passively or defensively, one plan is to pry open his position with a small group of pawn forces.
[The following I thought of after the original post]
4. The endgame: I don't know if it counts as a pawn storm, but if I have pawns on the two sides of the board it often helps to start marching them along on one side, lure the opponent's king to that side, and then push the pawns on the other side with the help of my king. I think this is usually called 'marching' the pawns, and 'pawn storms' are more of a middlegame phenomenon.

That's about all I've got. Any additions, corrections, suggestions for material to read?

In the comments, coffeehousepatzer points out that Daniel King has a DVD out called Pawn Storm on this very topic. A free video sample from the DVD is here. The DVD looks at two pawn attacks. The h-pawn attack and the f-pawn attack. Thanks CP.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

More cowbell

Please welcome our newest Knight Errant, Hard Days Knight. He is using PCT for his tactical madness. Perhaps he will be the first Knight to actually finish the PCT tactical module!

Ouch...missed tactic

I was playing the Ruy as white, having a slugfest with someone rated over 1470 (the highest rated player I've played at ICC, not for lack of trying to get better players). Move 54, my brain getting tired, it is my move:
What did I play? I went through with my plan of getting my rook behind my passed pawn, Re5??. I didn't consider Rxg6 because his rook can recapture. Aaarggh! 54. Rxg6+ and if 54...Rxg6 55. e8=Q+ and black is ever so dead. I only spent 17 seconds on the move...

Note to self: look a little more thoroughly at checks and captures, especially in the endgame. A few seconds of thought and I would have seen this. Man, I hope this pattern comes up again because I won't forget it.

Instead, I drew the game (even after Re5 white is winning but I didn't play it out correctly).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Circle 4.2 Finished, and new rating high

I just passed 1400 at ICC, finally, in a crazy game. I was black and it was the Two Knights defense. The game is here. I totally bungled the opening, going down the exchange and two pawns! I got really pissed off at myself, and used it to fuel a desperate attack, throwing everything at his kingside, attacking like a mad dog. I missed a couple of tactics (and I initially missed a mate-in-two at the end), but overall my insane rage helped. That's why I like to listen to Pantera's Walk before games I guess. I know 1400 at ICC isn't impressive: almost everyone reading this is much higher. But I feel very happy, as my goal when I started this (rated in the 900s) was to reach 1200.

Also, finished Circle 4.2, continuing to build up to what will be my tactical baseline.

# 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 4273-87
Problem Set 50
NOTE: Circles undertaken with CTB.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I went to LA (the Pacific Palisades) for my brother-in-law's High School graduation. It was good to be in a big city again, with all the food, people, and general hustle-and-bustle that comes along with it. Durham is a bit too rural-southern for this Yankee transplant.

I worked at Circle 4.2 on the plane, and should finish this week. My percentages are improving: I expect 85% correct or so. I have gone through the circle once and now have about 50 more problems I got wrong the first time to review until I get them right. The King and Pawn endgames are still the most troublesome, in that I typically don't understand why I got them wrong (so far I have found one error in a K/P endgame: CTB says wrong when Fritz says perfectly fine).

I am thinking about adding the King's Gambit to my white repertoire. I am at a new point in my chess growth: no longer do I consistently play like a cringing little orphan girl. I now try to make things more messy, tactically complicated, force myself and my opponent to have to calculate variations. The King's Gambit may be the best way to really force games into this style (though less so if black wimps out with 2. Bc5). Quality Chess has a new book coming out on it soon, by Pinksi: I will get it and then decide if it feels right. Also, I am excited that Marin's book on the Spanish for black may be a Berlin System! That would be sweet. I'll let everyone know once it comes out.

The King Assassins made it to the playoffs. This is the first time I have been board 3 instead of board 4, and the competition is definitely stiffer. I need to be sure to play practice games: just doing tactics is not enough. Staying in the rhythm of real move selection, calculation, etc is key: positions don't come labeled 'White to gain a knight in 2.'

I finally got Tisdall's Improve your chess now. I have only thumbed through it, but it seems excellent. I will post a more thorough review once I've read it a bit more closely. Basically, it gives advice on thought processes (since Kotov), how to get better at visualization (his suggestion: learn to play blindfold), and has a chapter on the worth of the pieces in different scenarios. This book was very hard to find.

P.S. I got a 'Hardcore Pawnography' bumper sticker from chessloser. Thanks!!! It is sweet. A very nice simple design. I wish we all lived close to each other: wouldn't it be fun to have a blogosphere tournament some weekend at a hotel? J'adoube would have to be kept in a cage so as not to end up in a battle royale over computers. Tempo would have to have his mouth sewn shut so as not to confuse we patzers with his high falutin' talk of quantum consciousness. And blunderprone would have to play a queen down to give us all a fighting chance. Grandpatzer would have to be TD because everyone will be too scared to play him. DK wouldn't be allowed to participate unless he promised not to mention any philosophers, economists, or his recent conversations with Seirawan (all obvious ploys to psyche out his opposition).

P.P.S. (added later in the afternoon) I've added a 'Hall of fame' to my sidebar. This list will contain blogs that are no longer active, but which contain so much good material that they are well worth perusing. The only member so far: Chess for blood.

P.P.P.S. My Monroi has now taken a liking to wearing a hockey mask around the house. I have him in a bird cage so hopefully he won't be able to hurt anyone. Shhhh. Wait. I think I hear footsteps. Noo! No Monroi! Aaahhhhh!