I have always known that my dislike of increments puts me in a minority. But I was quite pleased to see how big that minority was!
This blog post is inspired by IM Lawrence Trent’s public announcement that he is retiring from competitive chess, but is by no means meant as advice to Lawrence or a comment on his very personal decision. But it is a small note on goal setting and the way you can set yourself up for failure.
I have personally aimed at the IM title and the GM title at various times in my life. I achieved both rather quickly at the time when I was ready for them, getting all the norms in less than 12 months. It took me an additional three years to surpass 2500 in rating and it is only from this that I learned some quite valuable lessons; what had worked for me and what did not.
First of all, no matter how much I desired the grandmaster title, the desire did not give me an inch of competitive advantage. Rather the contrary – the overload of importance my decision making was suffering from meant that I struggled to work things out that should have been achievable for me. Every defeat was a heartbreak and caused immense emotional suffering. I have since then had to hold my ill child in a scanner for 20 minutes while she was crying and begging me to let her go, so I have definitely experienced worse, but where that was probably 9/10, losing to a 2100 in Cappelle in 2005 was about a 7/10. If I had not been entirely demolished, it might have felt worse.
The way I got past it was actually simple. I allowed myself to fail. I decided that as long as I was trying my best, it was OK. If that was enough, then it was enough. And if not, then it was not.
In 2006 I lost a blitz play-off game at the Danish Championship where I was apparently winning. I went from 1st to 6th place in less than 30 seconds. I knew already then that I would probably never win the championship of my birth country, as I had already changed affiliation to Scotland. Still, there was no pain, no regret, no remorse. I had tried.
In 2007 I became British Champion and surpassed 2500 on the way.
What I recommend to students facing such tasks is to play it move by move. If you are close to GM-level, but constantly failing (as is happening with one guy I am helping at the moment), maybe the thing to do is to improve your chess skills and knowledge? To do the work required to be more than 2500 once; to become a GM for life, if indeed this is your wish. Because if you do not like chess, the whole thing seems rather pointless to me anyway…
At the moment I am helping John a little bit with his two 1.e4 books (they are happening, I promise you!). We are quite a far way with Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines, and I have begun working on a few lines that I have some experience with. Obviously this is just a sneaky way to slip one or two of my own games into the book, though I think John will be efficient and delete them when he gets his hand on the files!
Anyway, I was looking at the competition in this process. We always do – with the hope that you will use our discoveries to win a game against one of their suggestions!
In the process I saw a distinct difference between two types of books. For example: I really liked two books on the Caro-Kann, Houska’s new book from Everyman and Dreev’s “Attacking the Caro-Kann” from Chess Stars. Jovanka and I play in the same team at the 4NCL and I know how much work has gone into that book. Dreev has probably been less diligent, but he has such a range of knowledge that although he missed a big, big line (John’s main suggestion) it was in a footnote on something he did not recommend and not what you would buy the book for anyway.
But there are other books – and here I shall not mention any names – where you are wondering where your €25 went. One book is word for word reprinting of articles the author has published elsewhere – without updating them in regard to other works out on the subject, even when rather important things have happened. And in a training video I saw, the author had clearly spent less time researching the line than he spent recording the thing. I really felt less informed afterwards, though I did learn 1-2 small tricks I did not know before, though arguably, I will never find any use for them, I fear.
We hope we have a solid publication date for Positional Decision Making in Chess, Python Strategy and Learn from the Legends – 10th Year Anniversary Edition. June 17th.
The books will now be available for sale. Also, PDMiC will be available on Forward Chess from June the 10th.
As said earlier, holidays and general busyness with the printer is the main reason for the delay.
Excerpts should be up now.
A new publishing schedule will be up in 1-2 weeks.
We were away for the weekend, playing in the 4NCL. Back in the office today. Colin is sorting out all the websales and so that came Friday-Monday. So the delay is minimal.
Worse is that our printer in Estonia has fallen behind schedule. The publication date for Python Strategy, Learn from the Legends 10 Year Celebratory Edition and Positional Decision Making in Chess will therefore be pushed a bit, till the 17th of June. We are very sorry; it is outside of our control.
We are not behind with the other books we are working (at least no more than previously so!) and will follow up with quite a few additional publications over the summer. There are some books we have already announced, as well as 1-2 surprises.
I was part of a ridiculous game on Saturday. Let me tell you the story just to amuse you.
I played really poorly against Keti Arakhamia-Grant with Black and was quickly dead lost. For some reason she spent a lot of time and when we passed move 30 she was down to maybe 20 seconds. At move 34 she was down to 6 seconds for the last six moves. When I hit the clock here, something bizarre happened. The clock reset itself. The arbiter fumbled with the clock, taking about three minutes to set it back to where we were, only to realise he had reversed the times. Another minute and the clock was set correctly.
At this moment, my phone, which I had handed over to the arbiter, started ringing! I thought I had turned it off, but chances are that I didn’t.
The whole thing was bizarre and I asked if we could have a chat. Keti, myself and the two arbiters went to an adjacent room and talk it through. Keti had calmed down and it seemed to me that basically all of my chances had evaporated with this. Unfair as it was, my chances had dropped from maybe 15% to 1.5% or so.
One of the arbiters suggested that I had just lost, because my phone went off. I disagreed. The game was not ongoing at the time and the phone was not in my possession. What if it had rang at home? Yes, everyone heard it, but what if it had rang in my car and a window had been open? I see the arguments the other way, but I did not find it as clear cut as he indicated at first.
I realised that there was no good solution to the situation. Except one. I resigned on the merits of my position.
We lost the match 5-3. If I had won on time, we would have won the championship, but as our only win was on time in an equal position against Keti’s husband, this would certainly have been rather ridiculous. The best team won.
This evening I was chatting to a friend, an old GM like myself. He was telling me about games where he had been tied to the board for hours, living on 30 second increments for thirty, forty, fifty moves. He was contemplating ending a long career – because of the time control.
When I talked to Keti after the game, she complained about the time control (2 hours for 40 moves) and said that increments were much better.
I disagree. I think that it is her own fault that she could not organise her time consumption better. This is a sport after all. Maybe we have fewer ridiculous blunders with increments, but I do not want to protect anyone against their own inadequacy. What is next? Blunder check?
I see increments as something that has mainly been good for the arbiters. They do not risk having to make decisions in complicated circumstances.
What is your opinion? I will leave this open for discussion for a few days and then we will have a vote.
While working on Python Strategy by Tigran Petrosian (excerpt here), I especially enjoyed reading his opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of other players. The ‘younger generation’ players alluded to in the title, namely Jan Timman, Zoltan Ribli and Ulf Andersson, were all born in 1951 and all went on to have hugely successful chess careers – and indeed all still play to a high level to this day. Petrosian made his comments in 1973 as the players were rising through the ranks. Timman was an International Master at the time, while Andersson and Ribli had been awarded the Grandmaster title in 1972 and 1973 respectively. It is interesting to compare Petrosian’s contemporary assessment of the trio with those we may hold now. So without further ado, I will hand you over to Petrosian:
I would particularly like to discuss the play of Timman, Ribli and Andersson. The Swede Andersson, the Dutchman Timman and the Hungarian Ribli are among the leading young players who will undoubtedly put pressure on the older generation in the next few years. And whenever I come together with them, there is something I would like to know. When we give up our place in the chess sun to the young talents, will it be because our play has changed for the worse on account of our age? Or will those who begin to surpass us be chessplayers who have risen to a new, higher level of mastery?
Ulf Andersson: small and slight, in outward appearance he seems more like a child who has strayed into the hall looking for a simultaneous display than a fully-fledged competitor in the main tournament. I somehow feel sorry for him. He crazily trails from tournament to tournament, and the easy opportunity to lead the life of a modern chess professional (who fortunately is not overburdened with worries about every crust of bread, unlike the professional of the not too distant past) has already left a grave imprint on his manner of play and his tournament psychology. In his games you rarely, very rarely see him aspiring to a full-blooded struggle. “Safety first” is not a motto before which chessplayers in such young years ought to bow. It leads to nothing good. And yet Andersson is capable of simply playing well. He possesses positional understanding, a keen eye for tactics, and vast theoretical knowledge to go with a well-worn tournament repertoire. In a word, all the signs of a top-class player are present. And at the same time – there are all the signs of creative stagnation.
While watching the live transmission of the US Championship a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the following game which followed one of the new lines in Grandmaster Repertoire 1A – The Catalan. In the game White went wrong and lost badly, so I was keen to see how the game compared with Boris’s analysis.
A. Sharevich – K. Nemcova
Saint Louis 2015
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Bd7 6.Ne5 Bc6 7.Nxc6 Nxc6
This line never used to have the best reputation for Black, but in the years since GM 1 was published it has undergone something of a resurgence thanks to an interesting plan involving long castling.
8.0–0 Qd7 9.e3 0–0–0!?
This is the fashionable way to handle Black’s position. The database contains one email game from 2003, but apart from that, every game has been played from 2009 onwards.
In GM 1 Boris gave 9…Rb8 as the main line, while also considering the sidelines 9…e5 and 9…Nd5. Obviously these lines are also given with updated analysis in the new book.
Boris mentions that he initially liked 10.Nd2 for White, when the most popular line 10…h5 11.Nxc4 is indeed promising for him.
However, he changed his mind after examining 10…e5!, after which Black’s position proved fine in Giri – Harikrishna, Biel 2014. The fact that such a well-prepared super-GM as Giri failed to prove an advantage shows how seriously this line should be taken.
10…h5 is less accurate, as Boris demonstrates in the book.
11.Qxc4 h5 12.Bd2!
So far Sharevich is doing everything right.
12.Nc3 has been played more frequently, but it is more important to get a rook to the c-file and advance the b-pawn.