Here’s an interesting video of the London Chess Classic blitz qualifier, won by England’s Michael Adams. I hasten to add that players of this level can play meaningful blitz games, but as you go down the rating scale it becomes ever more destructive to players’ thinking habits:
This great event finishes on Sunday, the official tournament site is here.
This warning from Stephen Hawking got me thinking. First of all I was surprised that he was taking the trouble to lend support for this idea which has been depicted in the movies on numerous occasions. And then I started considering chess players’ relationships with computers and how they’ve changed the nature of the game.
Computers have certainly led to massive advances in the fields of training and preparation; now even some players below 2200 can effectively use engines such as Houdini or Stockfish to prepare critical positions. This has led to many top players eschewing sharp theoretical lines and instead choosing to slug it out in dour positional struggles, with Magnus Carlsen being the leading representative of this approach. Speculative gambits have become quite rare as the work required to prepare them is largely wasted; it’s a serious risk to play the same line in more than one game as future opponents may be very well prepared.
So what lines are good? Basically just about anything that puts the emphasis on the middle game in which both sides have lots of playable alternatives. Your opponent can still prepare using a computer database, but he’s not likely to unleash a decisive opening innovation.
As for artificial intelligence, let’s keep them on a tight rein. I discussed this matter with Michael Koblentz on Facebook and he cited Koblentz’s law of robotics. This included such common sense measures as not given computers weapons, allowing them unilateral control of life support systems, build other computers etc. All common sense really, and of course we should never, ever, let them play chess.
One thing I’ve discovered over the years is that many people play chess for fun. This was a rather alien concept as I’ve always gone for ‘blood’ myself. I’ve also found it difficult to understand why many players don’t really seem to be trying to improve, they just seemed to be enjoying playing some matches, meeting up with their friends and perhaps trying a new opening.
It took me a while to accept that this was a valid approach. The turning point came during one of my seminars in which two attendees took me aside and suggested I do a video on tricks and traps in the opening. They weren’t sure they wanted to spend thousands of hours improving their positional understanding but would get a kick out of springing a few traps on their unsuspecting opponents.
Thus the idea for my Foxy Openings Dirty Tricks videos was born and I made two of them outlining a couple of tricky and surprising opening repertoires. The Dashing Danish could also fall into the category of ‘light entertainment’.
These videos are now all available at my Tiger Chess site, complete with pgn files for download and use in programs like Chess Position Trainer and Chess Openings Wizard. Here’s a video showing a bit more about the Danish one:
Winning a won game is one of the trickiest aspects of chess. In addition to the regular difficulties in combining tactics and strategy, there are great psychological pressures to contend with. For some it’s an internalized parent telling them not to mess it up, others will become careless and wonder when their opponents will resign. Very few players play as well when they recognize they should win with best play.
In the November 2014 Tiger Chess Clinic (available to Full Members only) I take a look at various qualities which can help the process, perhaps the most important of which is endgame skill. The top players certainly have this in spades which is one of the reasons they rarely mess things up.
Here’s Magnus Carlsen at work in the London Chess Classic from a couple of years ago. It looked at first as if it should be a draw, but little by little things slip away for White:
Here meanwhile is some more about the Tiger Chess Clinic:
With Magnus Carlsen having played the Gruenfeld in the first game of the World Championship I guess that a few people may want to follow in his footsteps. How should they go about doing this? Well what they shouldn’t do is buy the biggest and best reviewed book on this opening, it’s just too much to take in. Instead you need to build things up step by step.
At my Tiger Chess site I explain how club level players should go about this with the following Youtube video explaining a bit more about the approach I recommend:
Many players are put off from learning a defence like the Sicilian Najdorf (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6) because of its reputation for being highly theoretical. This is true, but only if you play the sharpest lines at the highest level. At club level the Najdorf can be played with very little knowledge, especially if someone steers clear of the most fashionable lines.
These were my thoughts when I made my Foxy Openings DVD on the Najdorf back in the 1990s. I avoided the most fashionable lines and found that there was relatively little that Black needed to know. And I wasn’t surprised that it hadn’t dated much when I reviewed the material for publication at Tiger Chess.
There was one line that needed some attention, 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Bd7 8.f5!?. This became known as a dangerous try after my initial recordings, but putting it under the microscope it didn’t look that scary and I filmed an extra clip showing how Black should deal with it. So my Najdorf recording is back in business and represents an excellent way for people to get on board this opening.
Here anyway is some more about the Najdorf recording and Tiger Chess:
Here’s some rare footage of Alexander Alekhine. Needless to say modern research contradicts two of Alekhine’s main claims and has shown that the main factor in mastery in hard work and that memory is actually very important! Of course it is better to be thought of as a genius!
Here’s some rare footage of Bobby Fischer demonstrating a Morphy game. Actually I think he did a nice job:
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.
Here’s another entertaining Bobby Fischer documentary interspersed with annoying adverts: