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 Bg4

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 the win of the 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.

LiChess.org tactics rating 2011, G15/3 rating 1848

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chess Openings: For Winning.

There are two ways to look at opening preparation. "I want to learn more about openings, so I can win more games now"; or "I want to play openings that will make me learn more about chess". When I chose to change from a King's Indian Attack (KIA) based repertoire to a Catalan based repertoire, I was making a choice to not win as many games, but to force me into the type of games that would make me grow as a chess player.

I believe that making opening choices that will make me grow stronger as a chess player is the right choice for me, but if you just want to win more games, then I have some advice.

For a club or class player to win more games, you should pick easy to learn solid openings that will get you into the middle game easily, and focus any chess study time on master games, tactics problems, and endgames. Using trappy and tactically difficult openings is problematic, because you have to spend a lot of time learning them, and they are easily avoided.

Lets look at one of these openings, the Fishing Pole line of the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 The Berlin Defense 4.O-O Ng4?! is the Fishing Pole 5.h3 h5 and we get this position.

6.hxg4? hxg4 and White will have to give the knight back, as 7. Ne1?? leads to mate. 7... Qh4 8.f3 g3 9.any Qh1#

But White does not have to take the offered knight. The simplistic 6.d3 and develop will give white a clear advantage. Black will eventually have to retreat the knight. White can do something more productive than 5.h3, too.

The fact is that the knight on g4 is out of place and does not help black fight for control of the center. The moves 5.h3 h5 weaken Black's kingside more than White's. For which, black has moved a piece twice in the opening and will eventually have to move it back for a waste of two tempi.

This is contrasted with a similar kind of idea in the Ruy Lopez Exchange. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.O-O Bg4 6.h3 h5, where Black can upset White's general play, but does not pay so much of a penalty.



Black's general plan is similar to the Fishing Pole, but there are several differences. The bishop on g4 pins the knight on f3. The move does not waste a tempi, but develops a piece to a good square. If black must move the bishop back, it is only the loss of one tempi, rather than two in the Fishing Pole. White will have to make some moves to shore up his kingside, before he really threatens to take on g4, so Black may not lose any tempi.  Black is in a better position to contest the game if white does not fall for the trap.

You might win some games with trappy openings, but you have to learn way to many to cover all the openings. Even some mainline gambits are regularly avoided by move orders. I play 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3, which undoes several tricky black ideas against the Queen's Gambit like the Blackmar-Diemer (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5), so you would need something besides the Blackmar-Diemer against other move orders.

Solid openings like the London, Colle, and the KIA for white, and the Queen Gambit Declined and 
Caro-Kann for black are ones that do not require too much opening study to play, and get you into the middle game without too much danger, where you can use the time spent on tactics to win more games.

If you are an USCF member, Chess life is a rich source for study with master games, tactics problems and one endgame column a month.

Chess.com, lichess.org, and many other sites have chess problems and annotated games.

I'm Baaaack!

Teaching did not work out for me. It was too much stress.

I am returning to chess study, and I expect to start posting to this blog more regularly by fall.

I will be playing chess online at lichess.org as newshutz.