Category Archives: Nigel Davies

Bishop and Knight Fail

My twelve year old son, who knows this endgame, found this video on Youtube. I have to admit that I might also have had trouble before practising this endgame with him and the excellent book, Pandolfini’s Endgame Course, as a reference.

Of course knowing such things is just a small part of being a good player. But it can be very embarrassing when you fail to win this endgame.

Nigel Davies

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Preparation In The Minors

Until recently the idea of having people prepare for their openings was alien to amateurs. But this is about to change.

The web site Chess DB has games by players right down to the lowest levels of competitive chess, and with the site accessible on a mobile phone everyone can now worry about having their opponents prepare for them.

Picking out a player at random I found that an 8 year old Austrian kid called Manuel Rigler, with a provisional Elo of 800, had seven games in the database. With White in one game he played for scholar’s mate (at least he did so in 2013) but great disappointment followed his opponent spotting it with 3…Nf6. He ended up retreating his queen with 4.Qd1, which might have been because of now remembering his coach’s advice not to bring the queen out too early. The later implosion with 27.b5 and 28.c4 was unfortunate, I guess he panicked a bit when he saw those rooks staring at him. Instead he had a strong move with 27.f4.

Manuel of course will likely be in shock to discover that his games are now public knowledge, not least because opponents can be primed for his scholar’s mate in advance. So aren’t databases going a little bit too far?

Of course here at the Davies household we’re celebrating the discovery of this site as my son Sam can now make more use of his personal GM father before a game. His opponents, of course, may find this more than a little disconcerting…

Nigel Davies

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Know Your Clock!

An often overlooked aspect of getting better chess results is to have a thorough understanding of how the clock operates and time limit, not to mention keeping your score sheet up to date. I’ve lost a game because I thought the clock was about to add me some time on when it didn’t! And I lost another one when I accidentally missed out a line on my score sheet at the bottom of the first column.

In the following encounter the clock goes wrong, but the players show their class in quickly noticing it!

Nigel Davies

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Magnus Carlsen in Conversation

Here’s an interesting interview with Magnus Carlsen which offers many interesting insights into computers and Carlsen’s rivalry with Vishwanathan Anand. I think their coming match will be much closer than the last one, not least because Anand has been freed of the shackles of being the Champion:

Nigel Davies

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Blindfold Chess: Good or Bad?

Last Saturday I played a couple of blindfold games at the Bradford Chess Festival. This isn’t as hard as it sounds for experienced and strong players, most players over 2200 should manage at least one. But is it good or bad for your chess?

Opinion is divided. In the former Soviet Union blindfold exhibitions were banned due to health concerns, other players swear by it as an improvement method. Those who have watched Knights of the South Bronx may recall that Mr. Mason insisted that all training was done blindfold when his team qualified for the nationals.

I tend to side with Mr. Mason’s view and used to use blindfold training exercises extensively as a teenager. But I’m not sure that it’s such a great idea to play lots of boards at the same time, this seems like showing off more than anything. So for this reason the Bradford organisers kindly let me off with just one game at a time, and it didn’t go too badly.

Here’s the second game in which I played an ‘Allies’ team of a couple of local players:

Nigel Davies

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Is Chessboxing Healthy?

Following up my post last Tuesday I thought I’d investigate whether the growing craze of chessboxing is healthy. Well probably it’s OK to look at but I wouldn’t recommend participating. Here’s a match as an example:

There’s clearly some good cardiovascular exercise involved but hitting each other in the head lots of times seems like a clear downside from a health perspective. Now I know they were using head guards but research has shown that this actually INCREASES the likelihood of concussion. There’s an article about this here.

Overall I’m astonished that chessboxing has been greeted with such enthusiasm whilst chess itself has question marks over its health aspects. Yet as boxing has been shown to cause brain damage (especially with head guards) shouldn’t chess plus a good brisk walk a day be rather better?

The answer seems clear, at least to me.

Nigel Davies

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Is Chess Unhealthy?

In the wake of two people dying on the final day of the Tromso Chess Olympiad there have been a number of articles speculating that the strain of chess is unhealthy. There have always been stories like this, for example Harry Nelson Pillsbury’s early demise was attributed to blindfold chess. In fact Pillsbury died because of syphilis and the deaths in Tromso were nothing more than a tragic coincidence. Of course Coincidence in Tromso would not make a good headline.

So is chess good or bad for your health? Well I haven’t seen real any evidence either way. Certainly chess is known to burn a lot of calories, at least if you’re concentrating during the game. I also have an untested theory that the goal of improving your chess can motivate people to become healthier and spend much of their time on a unique and powerful brain training method. These would seem to be very good and positive things.

Of course you need to take it seriously for these effects to kick in, pushing the pieces around over a few pints won’t have the same effect. And for me this is what makes chess a beautiful thing, it’s a means of developing human potential.

Nigel Davies

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Is It the Chess?

It was great to see a chess player, Sharon Daniel, win Child Genius 2014 on Sunday evening. Sharon actually mentioned that one of the reasons she liked chess so much was because the tactics and strategy helped her mind.

My impression whilst watching was that she was better under pressure than the other competitors and I thought she’d win after watching the early rounds. But can chess turn your child into a genius?

I’m fairly sure that it helps, though everything depends on degree. Doing an hour of chess a week at school may have some effect but this is in no way comparable to studying the game deeply for 10 or so hours per week and then testing your abilities in competition. I believe that the latter is where the real gold lies.

Actually I’ve had an opportunity to test this, and on my own son. Prior to teaching him chess he was languishing at the bottom of his year in every subject at school. His mental arithmetic and memory were very strong, but a dire weakness in English comprehension undermined his ability to grasp anything.

Four years on and he’s moving up strongly, getting glowing reports at school and becoming very interested in both academic and chess success. How did the ‘miracle’ occur?

Even members of staff at his school now put it down to the chess. Basically he has done something like 60,000 chess ‘problems’, from basic captures and material saving moves to forced checkmates. With English comprehension being taken out of the equation it gave him an opportunity to build his confidence by getting things right, and then competing on even terms with other kids. More recently he has been dipping his toes in adult tournaments and within a year or so should be well established there.

Knowing that we take it rather seriously I’ve had plenty of well meaning comments of the ‘as long as he’s enjoying it’ variety. Actually I can say that he would have enjoyed some XBox games much more, especially Grand Theft Auto and the like. But I’ve seen my job as helping him develop rather than providing entertainment, and it looks like it’s working.

Can other parents do the same? Well for chess it helps a lot if you know something about the game yourself and can at least supervise any training activities. But I’m fairly sure there are other fields that will work very well, for example playing a musical instrument, reading or developing mathematical skill. Many people have some sort of skill that can help their kids develop, but do they have the time and patience? In most cases it looks like they don’t.

Nigel Davies

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