There’s still a game to go in this year’s British Championship but it’s been a fascinating event. Most of all the presence of Michael Adams, a top class GM who has successfully competed against the best players in the World, has provided many great lessons. It’s interested to watch the games as they unfold because you can then try and guess the move and get a sense of the important decisions by the amount of time taken.
The following game was a vital one as Adams was pitted against the number two seed, David Howell. Adams won a tough game shown here with commentary by International Master Andrew Martin:
Look on any internet chess forum and you’ll find much discussion of particular opening variations. The participants will look up similar games and use the latest engines running on fast computers but appear to neglect the most important thing. It is vital, in playing any opening, to understand the sort of middle game it will lead to.
Without this it’s impossible to stay well orientated if something unexpected happens, for example if an opponent fails to play the book moves. And there are also so many possible variations in the early stages that it’s impossible to remember everything anyway.
A player I’ve grown to admire immensely over the years is Anatoly Karpov. His positional understanding is extremely subtle, yet at the same time it is grounded in the classics. Here he is conducting a classic minority attack against the strong Argentinian GM, Daniel Campora:
One particularly interesting encounter from the Bilbao Masters was the game between Magnus Carlsen as White against the Chinese prodigy, Wei Yi. Here is the game, nicely analyzed by Jan Gustafsson:
Here’s a Bobby Fischer documentary that I haven’t seen before. I like the emphasis on Fischer’s dedication, the great key to improvement:
There seem to be two different types of talent for chess, strategic and tactical. Strategic talent is the ability to see macro movements of the pawn structure and understand which plan should be used. Tactical talent, on the other hand, is the ability to visualize tactical ideas and crunch forcing lines.
Some players are blessed with both varieties of talent, which makes it a lot easier for them to advance. Others are blessed with one or the other, for example Viktor Korchnoi is someone I’d say was a very talented tactician whereas Mark Taimanov was more gifted as a strategist, and I have noticed that strategic talent seems to go with musical ability.
Overall I’d say that talented tacticians find it easier to start out in chess, mainly because tactics and blunders dominate at lower levels. But as you move up the rating scale strategy becomes increasingly important.
Here anyway is a nice game by Mark Taimanov in which he beat the then reigning World Champion, Anatoly Karpov. There’s a nice combination at the end which shows that strategy alone is not enough:
It’s quite interesting to see how many chess people are high achievers in real life. Do they use chess strategies to do this? Probably they do, at least in a way.
I would say that when Angela Eagle (at one time a keen chess player) recently challenged for the Labour Party leadership it was good example of an attack on a weakened monarch. There are a number of leading lawyers who have chess as their hobby and law seems to have much in common with chess in that it is an adversarial battle of intellect played according to a set of rules. Also traders of financial markets also seem well represented by chess players.
Of course there are many chess players who just play chess and are not in the least bit interested in other fields. Here’s a prime example, the late great Bobby Fischer before he lost his marbles. But even then it was all about the chess:
I thought today’s column should offer some cheer for the English after recent events. Sadly the game below is not against an Icelandic player but it does feature an English Opening played by English GM Jon Speelman. And it’s even a win!
My son Sam turns 14 today so I thought I’d devote today’s post to him and our ‘chess project’, which is a little more than 6 years old. I taught him the moves in March 2010 and he’s now well established in the tournament circuit. His new ECF grade will be around 146-147 (around 1800 Elo) and he’s probably a bit stronger than that already.
There are of course many kids who are ahead of him but I’m very proud of the way Sam is doing. He’s not one of those kids who are brilliant academically and succeed at chess (to a certain level) in passing. Instead it’s been a tough journey with a lot of hard knocks. Yet every time he’s had a setback Sam has bounced back to become a better player, which shows the sort of character and mental toughness that will help him in everything he does.
Many people have been curious about his progress and the kind of regimen we follow. From a chess perspective it’s essentially a bespoke version of my Tiger Chess syllabus which has a strong focus on core skills. The main differences with the way most juniors are taught are that he does not waste time on tricky, tactical openings and there are strong strategy and endgame components. He plays regularly in tournaments but never plays in junior events. So almost all his games are against experienced adult players.
He does quite a bit of work on chess but we go for quality over quantity. We probably do around 5-6 hours a week together when he’s got school, 9-10 when he’s on holiday. In addition to this he does an hour or two of tactical work per week on Chessity and goes through some of my Tiger Chess videos in some of his openings. He doesn’t play internet blitz but plays quite a few blitz games against me, almost always in selected openings.
What does the future hold? Well if he keeps up his current work rate he should be in Open tournaments next year and be around IM level in his late teens. Since taking up chess he’s grown in confidence, done a lot better at school and has a lot of friends and acquaintances at tournaments. So I’d say it’s going very well.
Continuing my Brexit themed journey down memory lane, here’s the second game from the European Team Championship in Skara 1980. Raymond Keene is playing Black against Harry Schussler and brings off a nice win with the unusual 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Bf5!?.
Schussler must have missed Black’s stunning 13th move which basically just wins on the spot. But he fights on bravely for another 37 moves:
Viktor Korchnoi, who died yesterday, was one of my chess heroes. Meeting him over the board was one of my most memorable chess experiences, and Viktor was very nice to me in the post mortem telling me how I did better than Leonid Stein with whom he played a similar game in 1962. He was of course critical of 19.a3?, I should have played 19.Qd2.
There will be better eulogies than anything I can provide. So all I’ll say is that it was a privilege to meet him.