Category Archives: Videos

The Chess Connection

“Pay attention, we’re gonna ask questions later!”
Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, The French Connection

How many of you have seen The French Connection movie? Gene Hackman is front and center in it as detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle; together with his partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Schneider) they are trying to get to the main source of a drug smuggling connection. It received at the time 5 Academy Awards, including the one for Best Picture while being the first R-rated movie to win it. I highly recommend it in case you have not seen it or if you wish to see it one more time. I was too young to really enjoy the 70s, so I love watching movies and/ or videos from that time.

This past weekend (Feb 18-19) I got together with a chessfriend I have not seen in years. Dan Scoones is a strong local master, 2 times provincial champion, who’s love for chess has not diminished over the years despite a very busy professional life keeping him away from OTB. His life is a bit less hectic these days and he spends a lot of time reading top quality books. He had a spare copy of Aagaard’s “Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation” and I had to have it. We met at the local Starbucks and in no time Dan pulled a chess set and we began talking our common language: famous Soviet chess players and trainers, hedgehog system, GM Suba, Maroczy structure, Fischer learning Russian to read Lipnitsky’s book (how many know this one, eh?…), etc as well as our love for endgames. Dan is an incredible endgame player, writing a nice column “Browsing for endgames” in our provincial newsletter BCCF Bulletin available for free in pdf format. He shared with me the following endgame study, courtesy of GM Maurice Ashley a common Facebook friend of ours. Try to solve it on your own, without engine help!

It is really cool to know you are looking at the same position Maurice, Hikaru (Nakamura) and alikes took the time to enjoy. It is a chess connection we are all blessed to have as a community, a connection dating back to the first chess manuscripts. Of course the experience is more exciting when the players involved are your contemporaries. Let’s proceed looking at the position to identify helpful clues in figuring out the solution. Do remember a simple rule I learned many years ago from a dear chess composer (Leo Mozes) in my home city:
“Every piece on the chess board has a purpose”
The list of clues could include but are not limited to:

  • Ne6 defensive purpose – to limit the action of Qf5
  • Ne6 attacking purpose – must be there for a deadly fork on the f8-, g7- or f5-squares
  • the f6-pawn – an unfortunate blocker also limiting the action of Qf5
  • Qf5 – another unfortunate blocker of Kg6 from running toward the center
  • Kf8 – helping Qe7 along the 7th rank; covering all squares around Kg6 should be a goal

If you found extra ones, you did a very good job!

Did you find the solution yet? I am happy I saw the first move, but did not see Hikaru’s move 2. I went for the popular choice and there is no shame in that. Here is the complete solution:

Be mindful you are part of the chess connection and get involved. It is the only way to keep it alive. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

The Benefits of Studying the Games of Morphy

“In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today… Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived. He had complete sight of the board and never blundered, in spite of the fact that he played quite rapidly, rarely taking more than five minutes to decide a move.”

Bobby Fischer

I’ve always been a fan of Paul Morphy. Ever since I studied his famous “Opera Game,” I enjoyed his clear attacking style. I think he is a good player for everyone to study, especially beginners.

Here are a few reasons why I think he is an important player to study:

Unlike many players of his era, Morphy set about developing his pieces before attacking. He seemed to value the development of his pieces highly, often sacrificing a pawn or two (as we’ll see in our example) to accelerate the development of his pieces.

Morphy was also a master of creating and sustaining the initiative. In looking at many of his games, I always felt like his opponents were stumbling backwards trying to defend themselves. His superior development of his pieces often aided in this, as well as the poor defensive skills of his opponents during this time period.

Following up from this is his incredible skill in coordinating his pieces – particularly when conducting the attack. When you look at his games, you often see that nearly all of his pieces are working for him. This is especially important for beginners, who often conduct an attack with one (maybe two) pieces.

One other aspect of his games was that although he played the top players of his era, opening theory and defensive techniques haven’t been developed as much as they are now. This means that his opponents made mistakes similar to the ones you and I (and our opponents) might make (unless you’re a master yourself who plays other masters). Sometimes these games are more instructive than watching a subtle positional duel between two of today’s top players.

Paul Morphy was ahead of his time and head and shoulders above his competition. His moves stand the test of time and his play was entirely modern. I think you will find studying his games very rewarding.

Below is a video of one of his masterpieces with my commentary (geared towards beginners). Enjoy!

Bryan Castro

The Search For Mona Lisa

Is chess an art, science or sport? Or something else? I tend to take the position that we should aim first and foremost for better results as this generally means better quality of play. It’s also too easy for people to proclaim themselves to be artists when another unsound sacrifice or dubious gambit goes wrong.

Having said that there is an element of art in chess and there are very strong players for whom this overshadows results. One such player was Eduard Gufeld.

Back in the 1990s, during my brief period as the Batsford Chess Editor, I got to know Gufeld because he was constantly phoning me up with book proposals. He had a number of co-authors in the former Soviet Union with whom he’d collaborate on various books, and then sell the manuscripts to publishers in the West. I had to reject many of his ideas but still enjoy many of his writings.

Sadly Gufeld died in 2002 but left behind a rich legacy in games. The book on his own games, The Search For Mona Lisa, was also a classic that many people may have overlooked because he was never one of the World’s top players.

Here’s Gufeld showing one of his games, and a very nice effort it was too:

Nigel Davies

Just Another Prodigy?

There’s always a lot of fuss about kids who do well at chess early on, the media just loves this kind of thing. Personally I’ve never found it very interesting.

Chess for most of us is a personal, participation activity in which we try and do a bit better than last time, and even if we’ll never be the best it’s exciting and fun to play. Meanwhile many of the prodigies fail to live up to their early promise, chess is a long and winding journey in which we need to keep going and learn over a long period of time. It’s not whether you have talent but staying power that really matters.

Having said that, this kid Mikhail Osipov doesn’t seem bad for 3. I can’t fault his chess though with stardom coming he might want to sack whoever’s cutting his hear and get a more professional job done:

Nigel Davies

Throwing Your Opponent on Their Own Resources

One approach to the openings is to throw your opponent on their own resources by playing unusual moves. This in fact is an approach that Magnus Carlsen has specialized in, using a wide variety of openings and often playing something unusual very early in the game.

Here we see him using the highly unusual 6.a3 against Wojtaszek’s Sicilian Najdorf, and it works rather well!

Nigel Davies

The Comeback Trail, Part 7

After thinking about which openings to play the next stage is how to prepare them. And for older players this is fraught with difficulties, largely because we started playing chess before the computer era. For many of us our idea of preparation was to play through a few model games in an opening and then start trying it out. These days this is not enough, certainly when you get over 2200 level.

Last weekend I was talking to an older player who is on his own comeback trail. He had spent time preparing an opening only to be totally outgunned by a younger opponent. I quipped that Bilguer’s Handbook was no longer enough and that older players needed to fully embrace the computer revolution to survive. I suspect that the older players who remain competitive, and most notably Vishwanathan Anand, have done just this.

Here’s a recent game in which Anand uncorked some stunning preparation against Veselin Topalov. Apparently when he finds an interesting move he leaves the computer on overnight to take a look at it, and this may well have been the case with his 12…b5!.

Nigel Davies

Board Games and Martial Arts

There are some interesting analogies between board games and martial arts and at many different levels. I noticed quite a few of them when I took up internal martial arts (Yiquan and then Tai Chi) around a decade ago and continue to be reminded of them all the time.

Here’s an interesting video in which these are explored. I might add the learning process is similar to chess in that you layer your understanding on what you already know. And that great patience and determination are needed on the part of the student.

Nigel Davies

The Automaton

A precursor of the chess computer was the chess automaton. The best known of these was The Turk, a fake chess playing machine that had a human chess master hiding inside. This device had quite a colorful history, defeating Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin during it’s active playing period of 84 years.

These days there’s no need for fakes, which seems sad in a way. No deception, no employment for diminutive chess masters and no awed spectators. Just a highly sophisticated machine wiping the floor with its human opponents.

On the subject of sadness and chess automatons I came across some music entitled Laments of a Chess Automaton. Actually I rather like it:

Nigel Davies