Saturday, October 30, 2010

Endgame Studies

Endgames studies are different than chess problems. Both are composed, but while problems are short and end in mate, studies are many moves in length and may end at an exact ending or preponderance of material rather than a checkmate.

Endgames studies can be useful for endgame learning, while chess problems are usually not directly useful for tactical training (though they can help with visualization). Though mostly they are just beautiful.

Youtube has a lot of endgame study videos, user EndgameStudies posted 5 nice ones in 2009. The third one, has white with 3 minor pieces against the black queen. This was similar to the material at the end of Shirov vs Carlsen which had lots of asymmetric exchanges and went for 174 moves, before Carlsen gave up and accepted a draw. Carlsen's problem was that he could not escape the white queen's checks and get two pieces attacking one of Shirov's pawns.

Of course youtube has some that may not be so good, also.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Memorize openings?!

  1. e4 d6
  2. d4 Nf6
  3. Bd3

This is a position I have seen a lot in play on the internet. I am black playing the Pirc and instead of the common Nc3, white choses the less than best, but not bad Bd3, and black is likely out of his book.Bd3 is not a bad move, there is no "refutation", and it seems logical to protect the e-pawn without blocking c3 to support the d-pawn. 3...e5 is met by 4.c3 as is 3...Nc6.

Understanding of the general ideas of kingside fianchetto with an opposing pawn chain down the long diagonal is what you need to play black here.

Similarly quickly out of the book is a game of mine from the recent Region VI open (Sept 2010) with a strong class B player (1766) (Analysis with help of Fritz 12)

 1.e4   d6
 2.d4   Nf6
I think this is a way to quickstart the normal anti-fianchetto kingside attack, so I abandoned the fianchetto and went into an "open game" where I hoped f3 would be misplaced.
 3...   Nc6
 4.c4   e5
 5.d5   Nd4
 6.Nc3  Be7
 7.Ne2  c5
 8.b4   O-O
 9.bxc5 dxc5
10.Rb1  Rb8
11.Nxd4 cxd4
12.Na4  Bd7
This does not look much like a Pirc! I misunderstood this position and played:
I need to ensure control of d6 and c5 and keep his c-pawn backward or try the sacrifice Nxe4!? to get a dominant central pawn mass and open lines toward his king after 14. fxe4 Bb4+ 15. Kf2 f5 16. Nd3 fxe4+ 17. Kg1 Bd6 18. c5 exd3 19. cxd6 e4 black has more than enough compensation for the knight. Nxe4 sacrifices are thematic against a f3,e4,d5 pawn chain and an un-castled king.
14.Bd2  Qb6
15.Nd3  Qc7??
16.c5   Rfc8
17.c6   Be8
with a significant advantage to white.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Plan--Endings

There are two aspects to ending preparation. There are the positions in endings books with clear winning/drawing lines, and practical endings where you use such knowledge to gain winning/drawing positions.

I purchased Silman's Complete Endgame Course (by Silman) to help with the former. It is really good! It's chapters are laid out with essential knowledge for each class of player. You memorize the material up through the chapter of your current rating range. There are quiz positions at the end of each chapter. I thought I was good at endgames, because of the number of games I have rescued in the endgame, but I found material in the earlier chapters, I did not know. The final chapter has a bunch of endgames to play over from great games.

For the latter, beyond playing master games and trying to understand the endings, I have taken to playing endgames where master level players have resigned and trying to win them against Fritz. I am not sure how I got these settings, but Fritz is annotating the game with its evaluations of my moves. I can note where the evaluation worsens and review my decisions at these points.

Here is an example of an internet game, where I escaped a loss, because of the simple knowledge of the King needing to be in the square of the pawn. I saw this position several moves earlier and worked to get here. White to move and win:

White is quite willing to trade queens in this position, no only because his king is more vulnerable, but also because the black king is outside of the square of the a-pawn and the white king is inside the square of the h-pawn.

I just found this site with 398 endgame studies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Plan--Openings

I had purchased Seirawan's Winning Chess Openings to help my sons get an overview of the openings. They did not spend much time with it, alas, but I skimmed it. It seemed as good and more up to date than the opening section in Fine's Chess the Easy Way, which I read as a child (and I could not find my father's copy of Fine's book).

I think Seirawan's advice is good. Start out with Kings Indian Defense and Attack, plus the Pirc. I had played the Pirc back in the day, and I expect the Benko lines I used to play are obsolete anyway. The KIA is different from the Reti/Nimzo-Larsen stuff I used to play, but will ease my way back into chess without all the theory needed to play d4 or e4.

Wetzell's advice (developed before the chess computer age) is to construct tables like the ones in opening encyclopedias(just many more of them). I think some of the computer based opening trainers like Chess Opening Wizard or the free Chess Position Trainer are a better way to go, but I have spent a great deal of time memorizing lines over the last 6 months, and I find very few times that I end up playing the memorized lines.

I have come to the conclusion that below the master level (maybe expert) opening line memorization is not a good way to spend opening preparation time. The right thing to do is to study annotated games on the openings you want to play, and get a good understanding of the kind of opening tactics and middle game plans that arise from these openings. Opening repertoire books can be a good source for these games and plans.

I have found the videos on to be useful. The site has videos arranged by openings, and class players have submitted videos describing their games. I hope to make some videos and post them, but so far my allergies have made my attempts too full of coughs, snorts, and throat clearings.

In later posts, I will review the opening books, I have been working with.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Plan--Flash Cards

An important part of Wetzell's method is to create flash cards of key positions pulled from your own mistakes. These mistakes can come from your games, chess problems, or missed moves in solitaire games. I had no current games of my own, but a year's membership to came with Fritz 12, so I began playing 15 minute games there. I had game collections on my shelf, that I could try solitaire chess. And there are lots of sources for chess problems.

Flash cards are to be gone through periodically, and as a warm up.

I am creating my flash cards with a word processor. Fritz can send a position to a jpeg file or I use Apronus chess to create an image of a position. (UPDATE: 10/7/2011 I am now mostly using the Chess Alpha font to enter board positions. It is a little harder, but I think more portable in the long run.)

This is an example of a flash card I made from an internet game position. The 'W' at the top indicates it is white to play. I have begun to place the source at the right on the top. In the box at the bottom is a meaningful (to me) short phrase indicating that I do not need to simplify this position (cxd5) and that no progress is made with Nc3, but that I should have formulated a plan to advance e4.

For places to play online there is the Internet Chess Club,  the Free Internet Chess Server, and many other places to play online (google is your friend).

Tactical chess problems can be found on the Shredder chess site and on

Crafty,  good free chess engine to help analyze your own games can be found at

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Beginning

I start this blog in October of 2010 as my chess training journal. I am 52 years old and have started playing tournament chess again after a short break of 35 years.

I stopped playing tournament chess in 1975 when I was 17. As time has gone on, I have occasionally played around against the computer, taught my sons chess, and went to a handful of club meetings.

Sometime in the very late 90's, while wandering around a Barnes and Noble, I came across a book, whose title intrigued me, Chess Master at Any Age by Rolf Wetzell. Browsing through the book raised my interest further. I thought I could follow the study plans or modify them to suite me. I bought the book, took it home, and put it on the shelf. I had bought other chess books through the years, skimmed them, and then put them on the shelf.

In 2002, my employer enabled me to pursue other endeavors  (I was laid off), and I took up parenting duties as my wife went back to work full time. In 2009, my eldest son went off to college, and over the next few months, I found my mind searching for challenges.  In January of 2010, I took Wetzell's book down off the shelf.

I bought a copy of Fritz 12, cleared off the chess table my grandfather made, unpacked the chess pieces I had bought to match the table, and pulled a few other books off the shelf. I was hooked again.