Saturday, February 10, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Black Kingside Fianchetto and White's c-pawn

There are 5 first moves for white, that have a statistical advantage: e4, d4, c4, g3 and Nf3. Nf3 usually transposes to one of the 4 pawn moves. Black has various good choices against all of these, and a subset of them involve a kingside fianchetto against all of white's choices.

I am familiar with the black choices that allow white the most freedom, the King's Indian Defense (KID) and Pirc/Modern. When black plays these, white can usually pick from a variety of setups with the c-pawn and the Nb1, if white has not opened with 1.c4. For this essay, I will call these the KID, Barry, and Pirc.


White has moved c2-c4 and Nb1-c3
There is a lot of theory here, and white may not have the Nf3, but play f2-f3 or develop the bishops before the Ng1.

Black will attack d4 with either c7-c5 or e7-e5. The pawn on c4 is committal, has taken a tempo, and can become a target. White will not usually have time to make an e4-e5 push, before black attacks d4 with a pawn.

White does get queenside space, and can more easily resist if black goes for queenside play, than the other options. In the most popular variations, white attacks on the queenside, while black attacks on the kingside, but white has a variety of options for more positional play.

It is not advised for white to respond to the e7-e5 break with dxe5, as the exchange variations are quite difficult for white to win. The permanent hole on d4 is quite troubling for white, while black and control d5 by placing a pawn on c6

The Barry

White has moved c2-c3 and Nb1-d2
White has strong control of d4, a pawn chain that blocks the a1-h8 diagonal, but the development of his queenside is awkward. Black can either try for a queenside pawn expansion to eventually open up the diagonal, or look toward an Open Game (Ruy Lopez closed) setup, where he has not committed his queenside pawns.

Black is several tempi ahead of a Spanish or Italian with a similar structure. I think black is equal here wherever white places the light square bishop (e2, d3, or c4).

The Pirc

White has played Nb1-c3 and left the c-pawn at home.
White has control of d5, but the d4 square is temporarily weakened. White has not used a tempo with c2-c4 so e4-e5 is more likely to work.  The main long term difference is that white can push his d-pawn to d5, or trade pawns on e5 or c5 without a permanent weakness at d4. Pawn moves are commital, and also use a move. The Pirc/Modern allows white to put pressure on black the earliest, but will result in wild games as black must play dynamically or be suffocated.

All of these approaches work for white. If you play the Pirc/Modern as black, than you will likely already know this formation causes some issues for black. I suggest playing as white lines that cause you trouble as black. Either you will have success as white, or you will learn something about how to play the black side.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Winter Open 2018

David Kuhns directed a very nice tournament at the Roseville MN Skating Oval (in a large meeting room, not out on the ice). If you like to ice skate, Minnesota is the place for it.

The top section was FIDE rated, and I achieved my major goal of playing 3 or more FIDE rated players in one tournament (which starts a FIDE rating).

I played well against 5 higher rated players. I messed up my openings as usual, but managed to bring it around in the middle game: two wins, two draws, and a loss in the last round. I really like the time control game 90 with 30 sec increment. The head reshaping from the OLE chess camp is still working for time issues. I had no time pressure in any game.

I was tired in the last round and perhaps did not play my best. I need to work on my chess stamina.

My opening theory is really rusty. In particular, I need to work on mainline KID as black and QGD/Catalan where black plays ...Ne4 as white.

My second round game was a wild one, where we were off into new territory on my 4th move. I sacced a pawn early and gained great pressure from it. It was the only game in which I was better out of the opening.

Play online chess

game viewer from

Update: I now have a FIDE rating. I had played enough FIDE rated players in FIDE rated tournaments prior to the Winter Open. My rating is 1951 which is about my USCF rating. This should be good news for my opponents, as most FIDE ratings around here lag their USCF by up to 200 points.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Nonreview of "The Modern Tiger"

The Modern Tiger is an update of Tiger's Modern by Tiger Hillarp Persson. I have borrowed a copy of Tiger's Modern, and not yet purchased The Modern Tiger. So this review will mainly talk about Persson's writing style and my general reaction to his ideas.

I have resolved not to buy any more dead tree chess books.  I need to trim my library down as we downsize for retirement, and I can store a lot more ebooks than I can paper books. The Modern Tiger is not available in Kindle or Epub.

The Modern Tiger claims to be an extensive rewrite of  Tiger's Modern. I have looked at a lot of Persson's games from 2016 and 2017 to get some idea of the changes to the repertoire, but these books are not properly repertoire books. The Modern Defense gives white a lot of freedom in his move choices both in placement of his pieces and in the order of that placement, so Persson puts more emphasis on ideas and plans than lines and tabiyas.

He does not explicity focus on the idea of paired moves that has helped me with the transpositional nature of my white repertoire, but paired moves are easy to pick out of Persson's text. The most obvious one is that most postions from 3.Nc3 allow good results from 4...a6

His style is light and easy to read. He does not take himself too seriously.  He does believe in the opening and that might color his judgement. He also likes the wild complexity that arises from many Modern lines.

I think his focus on the ideas and various plans is the right way to write opening books in general, and almost imperative for openings that give white such a wide set of options.

The main thrust of how Persson plays the Modern is to get a better Sicilian Dragondorf. These lines look very convincing to me, and I have begun trying some of them. The major problem with the Modern compared to the Pirc is that white is free to play c2-c4 (King's Indian), or c2-c3 (the Barry). I am comfortable with the King's Indian, and the Barry.

In positions where the Dragondorf is unwise to attempt, he uses the Hippopotamus or tailored setups (often transpositions to the Pirc). The hippo rises from the river, when white has made moves like a2-a4 to prevent b7-b5. The key to avoiding cramped hippos is to time the pawn breaks well and not to lock the center.

Like it's sister the Pirc and cousin the King's Indian, the Modern is prone to unusual positions that come from the necessary dynamic play of black. The Modern is even wilder than the Pirc (which is wilder than the KID).

I have tried to put a recent game of mine below, but I am having trouble getting a game viewer to work.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Chess Journal

The purpose of this blog is to act as my chess journal, to make me put into words what I am learning, following the concept that one understands something more deeply if they can explain it to others.

Even if you do not want to expose your weaknesses to the world in a blog, you should keep a chess journal. Your annotated games, master games, opening tabia and lines, chess problems that you found difficult, and anything else that writing down will help you remember. A spiral bound notebook, loose leaf binder, a collection of folders, a word file in the cloud or a combination work.

As I look back on this year, I have learned things I have not put into words. I need to be diligent in doing this work.

I have learned things, and have examples from my games that I should have used to make blog posts.

Most of what I have been learning has been middle game and endgame strategic ideas. It is much easier to write about openings or tactics than those topics.

There are two big tournaments coming up. The Winter Open Jan 27-28 and the Minnesota Open Feb 23-25. I have post worthy material from the Senior Open, Northern Open, and the TCCL games.

New Year's resolution to carve out some time to write posts.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

OLE Chess Camp

I just overdosed on chess. My brain is fried.

I played in the OLE warmup tournament, Attended the OLE Chess Camp, and played in the US Senior Open, all at St Olaf College in Northfield Minnesota.

The camp is a Sunday afternoon through Friday morning of chess. It was a very interesting experience, but for adults it is probably more cost effective to spend the money on individual lessons.

Students were grouped into classes by rating. This was mostly a good thing as topics could be tailored for the level of the players.

On Sunday there was a blitz tournament, and each class had a simul against the class teacher.

The main days (M-Th) started out with a G/60 game against fellow classmates followed by three 90 minute lessons. One in the morning and two in the afternoon. In the evening there were activities or intensive study presentations. You had your main teacher all three classes Monday and for the first class on the other days.

I was in the top class and our teacher was GM Kaidanov. He was very good, and gave us lots of good information in the context of going over our games. He spent most of our class time going over our games. This was the most instructive part of the whole camp. He continually gave us examples of play from our games where we were to passive or defensive and needed to play more actively.  Since most of us had reach our current strength (1900-2100) by eliminating errors, this was very good instruction.

My class had GM Goldin for two sessions. He gave good instruction on time management and perhaps the best exercise during the camp.  He pulled up a random grandmaster game and picked a random position from the game and gave us a time limit to make a move selection. He used his judgement on how much time we had (2-4 minutes).  He would not accept moves until the time was up. Then he did a short discussion of the differing moves that we picked. There were always several good moves. He stressed that a difference in computer evaluation  of moves of 0.25 or less was inconsequential, and not worth spending a lot of time to make the choice. If you have two good moves to choose from, don't dither about which is best, but pick one and play it.

One of the class activities that did not work well, was tactical problem solving.  The kids would begin blurting out moves in the attempt to be first, without really taking time to calculate. They were so noisy doing this, that I was not able to put a list of candidate moves together.

I am glad that I had the experience. I think the camp is much better suited to youth. For a youth player is is probably worth the money, as summer camp is about more than the education.

I do not think I will attend the camp again, but it was a good thing to do once.

BTW, GM Goldin's lesson proved useful during the US Senior Open. I had much better clock management, and never had less time than my opponent.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The 3 Keys

The 3 keys

I keep changing what I call these. I used to call them guidelines, but I think keys are better. They unlock the real game of chess.

  1. Keep your king safe.
  2. Make your pieces active.
  3. Control key squares.
You keep from losing games by doing these, and you win games by making it difficult for your opponent to achieve these.

In the opening the words we use for the keys differ, but they still are there.
  1. Castle.
  2. Develop.
  3. Fight for the Center.
The center are key squares through most of most games. In the ending the squares in front of passed pawns often become more important than the center. When the center becomes locked, the key square shift.

Development is the first placement of the pieces, and we want them to be on active squares. For instance, in the Ruy Lopez closed, white's queen knight first moves to d2, but it is not really developed until it reaches e3 or g3.

Castling is one way to keep your king safe, and important when your opponent is developed and can open the center.

The Game

I played a G16/3 recently. I could have played much better, but my opponents play is a good example of not using the keys.

After 1.Nf3 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3. Nbd2 e6 4.c4 Bb4

I made a conscious choice to make a sub optimal move here.  I gambit a pawn to get the two bishops and development.  5.g3 Bxf3 6.exf3 Qf6 7.Bg2 Qxd4 8.O-O

This position is equal. I may not be able to keep my development edge, as I have trouble unwinding my pieces. I have several problems: f3f4 will uncover my Bg2, but could get into my other bishop's way, Normally, an exposed queen this early in the game would be trouble for black, but I do not have a ready means to improve my position by gaining tempo by attacking his queen. Black can develop his knights to e7 and c6 then castle to be fine.

But he decides to begin a kingside attack when he is not developed. My plan was to develop my dark square bishop to b2, and look for breaks with my c and f pawn. 8.... h5 9.a3 Be7 10.f4 h5?? 11.Qa4?? c6 (I missed that I could just take the a8-rook, I was too focused on getting my knight to f3 and not trading queens)  12. Nf3 Qf6 
In this position, black is way behind in development. His king is still safe without castling, but it does interfere with getting his queen rook into the game. His knights are still at home.  I should take his pawn on h5, as he is too poorly developed to sack the exchange on h5. I was too focused on bringing my bishop to d4.

13. Be3 hxg3 14. hxg3 Qxb2?! (he takes another pawn) 15. Rab1?  Qc3?? (the a3 pawn was en prise. This was a pawn he should grab.)  16. Bxb6 Bd8?? (16... Qxa3 )
We are at move 17 and three of black's pieces are undeveloped, while he just move a fourth to the back rank. Steinitz may have made such moves, but he would never have made a move like that in this position.

Things are pretty hopeless for black. His development is no better than it was on move 13. By move 17 in any game your knights should have been involved for a long time.

Here I should have traded bishops and begin the crush. The rest of the game: 17. Bd4 Qd3 18. Rbd1 Qf5 19. Be5  Nf6 20. Nd4  Qh5  21. h3  Ng4  22. hxg4  Qxg4  23. Qb3  Be7 24. f5 d6  25. Nxc6  Nxc6 26. Bxc6+ Kf8 27. Bxa8 Bd8 28. Bxd6+ Kg8 29. Bf4 Qh3 30. Rxd8+ Kh7  31. Rxh8+ Kxh8 32. Rf2 1-0

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Revitalization Plan

I played in my first serious tournament for the last 3 years, the Rochester Open 2017. I played very poorly. My visualization and analysis skills were very rusty.

Visualization and analysis are complementary and intertwined skills. The ability to visualize the position while evaluating the position and exploring move choices is critical.  I misplaced pieces and missed obvious moves.

I wasted time repeating analysis of the move tree. I was having trouble keeping track of the position evaluation of  a move sequence.

My opening knowledge was rusty, but not really much of a problem. Usually, your opponent (or you) will diverge from your preparation fairly early, and my games in this tournament were not really much different.

What to do?

I have not been doing tactics problems. These are really good visualization and analysis exercises. I will need to a lot of time on tactics problems.

I need to play more, but time controls long enough that there is some real analysis going on. G/15 is a reasonable time control and fairly common on the internet. Spend more time analyzing the game than playing. This will give a refresh of opening knowledge, as well as evaluating how my visualization and analysis is shaping up.

In a few weeks, I am going to play in the US Senior Open in Northfield MN as well as go to the chess camp the week before at St Olaf college. I hope to have some better form then. tactics rating 2011, G15/3 rating 1848