Despite the doubters I thought it time we had another post on the benefits of chess. I feel a massive debt of gratitude to the game because sure the game helped me a lot as a youngster. Meanwhile my chess project with Sam has coincided with leaps and bounds in both his confidence and how he’s doing at school.
Here’s a neurologist on the benefits of the game:
Another aspect of comeback preparation concerns whether you need to win, and most especially with Black. This can vary from player to player and also change over time. For example those who tend to be among the contenders in a particular section will be under pressure to win with both White and Black. Those who tend to be among the back markers will be a lot happier with draws.
I’ll be facing this issue when I start to play again. I’d like to think that I should be among the favourites in most weekend Open sections and as such will need a lot of wins. This issue will be compounded by the fact that I’ll probably need to take half point byes on the Friday evening game, leaving me needing four straight wins to get a high prize.
In such situations it makes sense to play openings which lead to a full blooded struggle, and especially with Black. Against most Black defences White will have simplifying lines, and although there are usually ways to make a fight of it, these should probably be avoided.
So it’s quite common to see the stronger competitors in weekend tournaments specialize in openings such as the King’s Indian and Sicilian Defence. Of course these might not be everyone’s cup of tea and there may also be a temptation to have a separate repertoire for stronger tournaments in which a lower percentage can win a top prize. This of course could get very time consuming, especially when the financial returns for professional chess are quite modest, at least under the very highest level.
Different players have different answers. In the UK Keith Arkell plays quite modest openings but specializes in the endgame where he can grind out wins from the most unpromising looking positions. Mark Hebden, on the other hand, has a superbly worked out opening repertoire which allows him to win a lot of quick games. On the other hand he takes some risks by playing very sharp positions in which a single mistake can decide matters.
What about my own solution? Actually I haven’t decided yet, though historically speaking I’ve been a jack of all trades. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
This recent article lends some important clarification to the so-called 10,000 hour rule. Of course some of us have been aware of the importance of talent for some time, especially after post mortem analysis with a young Vishwanathan Anand. I understood that I’d never be as quick sighted as him or other top players even with 100,000 hours.
Having said that my many years of chess teaching has convinced me that what most people are missing is practice time. Often it is the opportunity that’s the problem, especially for those with jobs and families. But most usually it’s a lack of willingness to put as much time in as possible and over an extended period.
People try to circumvent this truth with quick fix methods that just don’t work. But most people can make good progress over time if they put 7-10 hours a week in and focus on core skills.
In my recent post The Return of the Raptor I mentioned how the 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4!? line of the Trompowsky Attack seemed to be making a bit of a comeback. Lines like this can be particularly popular with busy players who don’t want to spend too much time on preparation. But this approach can also come at a cost.
With a limited opening repertoire depending on some oddball moves, what do you do if you have to face a real expert in this opening? Alan Merry faced this issue as White against GM Peter Wells in the recent Blackpool Congress with Wells having written an excellent book on this opening.
Merry stuck to his guns and played 2.Bg5 but found Black very well prepared. Wells followed one of the Carlsen – Karjakin games with 4…gxf6 and would soon built up an excellent position. The storm broke with 12…d4 after which the attack was really beautifully conducted:
In The Comeback Trail, Part 9, I discussed how it can be a good idea to create databases for prospective rivals. Let’s now look at this in another way, what if they create a database on you?
This thought should be enough to discourage us from playing dubious gambits, especially if we play our chess in a relatively confined environment. It also suggests that we might want to have a certain variety in the openings we play in order to avoid the brunt of an opponent’s preparation.
How can you incorporate some variety but without massively increasing our preparation workload? This is a difficult issue, and something that chess organizations may want to consider before putting everyone’s games online! I think a good approach is to play openings which are very sound and where any sharpness tends to be deferred until later in the game.
At this stage you’ll start to realize why the Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4) and Queen’s Gambit Declined have become so popular, they fit this bill perfectly. But meanwhile there are plenty of other openings which are good for this, for example 3…g6 against the Ruy Lopez is also solid and leads to complex middle games. If I were to play 1…e5 on a regular basis, this would certainly be a candidate line for me.
Are there particular players who have mastered this approach? Well an obvious one is a young Norwegian chappy by the name of Carlsen…
Regardless of one’s political persuasion this makes for interesting viewing. The leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, plays a game on live television and loses in just 36 seconds.
In his defence I should point out that his opponent, UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott, is a pretty good player with a current ECF grade of 187.
With Hugh away this week I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to fill in for him. Rather than attempt to match his brilliant articles I thought it better to offer some light entertainment in the form of Chess and Simpsons. And no that’s not the famous Simpson’s restaurant in the Strand but rather Homer Simpson and family.
Here are some Simpsons youtube clips featuring chess. Enjoy!
In recent years there has been talk about rating inflation due to top players achieving ever higher Elo ratings. Were so many players really so much better than Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov?
I’m not sure that the effect can really be described as inflation as at the other end of the scale there appears to have been the opposite effect. With more players becoming Elo rated and the ratings going down much further, many titled players who have to play against them (for example in Elo rated weekend events) have struggled to maintain their ratings. So what I think we have is an increased spread in the ratings, and much depends on who you get to play against.
The following ‘upset’ features an ‘ordinary’ GM beating a super-GM in fine style. It’s hard to believe that the winner is really almost 300 points lower rated:
The game below is a real trip down memory lane for me. It was played in my first Elo rated tournament when I’d just turned 17 and I still played openings like the King’s Gambit and Schliemann Defence.
The Schliemann featured in this game and my opponent, Jeff Horner, didn’t really know what to do against it apart from ‘common sense’ development. But allowing the doubling of White’s c-pawns was not a good idea.
Horner and I would play many more times over the years and with very good results for me. It can help to get off to a good start against someone.
Chess openings tend to drift in and out of fashion apparently depending on spurious factors such as whether or not they have a strong player using them. A good example is the Raptor Variation of the Trompowsky which goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4!?, a one time favourite of UK GM Julian Hodgson which all but disappeared when he stopped using it.
Interestingly it now seems to be making something of a comeback, mainly thanks to the efforts of Richard Rapport. There are a few others chipping in too such as the inventive Australian GM Max Illingworth: