A simple observation about FIDE politics

July 21st, 2014 18 comments
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Grandmaster Q&A Part 4

July 21st, 2014 7 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts over the summer.

This post continues from last weeks post.
Read more…

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Something Special

July 16th, 2014 45 comments
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Grandmaster Q&A Part 3

July 14th, 2014 6 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts that will come over the summer.

This post continues from last week’s post.

6) How to accept defeat and move on during the tournament? We all know how it feels to lose a game in a long game of Chess especially after getting a very good or completely winning position or missing an excellent opportunity to finish the tournament at the very top. My question here is rather psychological.

The first thing is to accept your emotions. If you are upset after a defeat, I do not believe that you should suppress that emotion.

But it makes sense to question why you have those negative emotions. Often it is because of how we see ourselves in the situation we are in. A great saying is: Disappointment requires adequate planning! – that thing you wanted/expected, did not happen.

What are your rules for how you view chess? I try to like chess for all the positive things. When I was very young I saw it as a vehicle for my own ego, status and so on. I suffered very badly. Today I see it as an opportunity to experience all the great emotions that run through us when we play. The tension, the excitement, the thrill of winning, the stubbornness of fighting against the dying of the light.

I have come to a point where I care a lot about the effort I put in. But at times my opponents play better than me, even when I do the best I can. In those cases I might feel disappointed; but I also know that what I did wrong was perhaps not training enough, not preparing in the right way and so on. It was not my effort during the game.

I am quite a passionate tennis player. Also rather weak, but this is not so important. The main thing is that at times, when I play doubles, my partner makes a bad shot and then spirals out of control in disappointment. I am rarely affected. I know that being a weak club player means that I will make a lot of mistakes that better players do not. In the same way I know I will make mistakes when I play chess; I am a Grandmaster, but not an especially great one. By adjusting my expectations to my own play (and that of my opponent), I am better prepared to do what I really need to do:

Solve the problem: What should I play on the next move.

Results come. Game ends. We cannot force them to end as we wish. What we can do is learn to solve the problems in front of us better and to improve our persistence in doing so.

7) I always try to avoid a Queen Exchange and kind of avoid playing endgame. Funnily Endgame comes very rarely in my games and if it comes then it becomes quite clear most of the time. Should I deliberately change this approach?

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Grandmaster Q&A part 2

July 7th, 2014 5 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts that will come over the summer.

This post continues from last week’s post.

3) I have been suffering from Openings for many years.

It can be categorised in many aspects

i) Unable to remember existing theory and also what I have seen my own analysis or some GM’s games

It is a common misconception that the strongest players are much better at remembering their analysis than other grandmasters. I used to believe this as well, while now I am not so sure. There is of course a tendency in that direction, but it is probably more like 10-20% better recall on average than 100-200% better recall.

So how do the best players manage to remember the theory much better? They spend a lot of time on memorisation. They do it in various ways; for example with training games and so on. I have personally found that using the TRAINING function in ChessBase is quite useful. If I want to remember something, I go through my files a few times over 1-2 weeks and say the move aloud before pressing on the arrow to see if I have remembered correctly. I only do this with my own moves.

I am sure there are more useful techniques out there, but this is the one I use.

ii) Don’t have any new idea / interesting novelty ready. Just following some games played by some elite players.

A lot of players are like this. I am not sure Carlsen has many great ideas in the opening. I think it is more important to understand the ideas available to you in the openings you play. Studying the middlegame seriously might easily earn you more points than finding a subtlety in the opening.

Obviously things change to some extent when you get past 2600. The difference in level often decreases and in order to win a game, it is very useful to start the game from a better position.

iii) Often I have mixed up ideas of one opening with another or forgot the correct move order

Again you have to invest time in order to gain the benefits. You forget things because you have not invested a lot of time in understanding the nuances of the various lines.

iv) Facing more problems with lower rated opposition in terms of choosing right opening. Always getting into some sort of positions which are unpleasant for me to play. Unable to choose any effective lines.

I suggest that you spend a lot of time, finding players that have similar strengths and weaknesses to you and who have a high score against players rated lower than themselves. I guess it would not take too long to work out. See what openings they play and find out how they win the games. Is it persistence? Is it knowledge of the opening? It can be a lot of things; you will need to make it a study to work it out.

v) Spending too much time even in known positions. Spending lots of time after facing a new move and therefore approaching nasty time trouble.

Learning to make decisions is an important part of chess. One of the ways to do this is to understand what it is that makes you spend too much time, when you should be making a decision instead. If it is fear, as it often is, know that you will need to change your behaviour. Even if you are afraid, you need to act as if you are not. You cannot expect that the tension of a high-level chess game will have no effect on how you feel. What you need is to get to a place where you feel the tension, but act as if you did not.

It gets easier with time.

4) What is the ideal way to study openings?

Read more…

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Grandmaster Q&A Part 1

June 30th, 2014 58 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general he needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking about quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts that will come over the summer.

1a) In case I am working alone what should be the most effective training method?

Obviously I can only give an opinion, not a definite answer to this question. I think an important point is to refer to a previous blog post, where I clearly state my belief that there are many ways to do just about everything.

But this does not mean that there are not a few ways of training that you can do on your own that have a proven track record.

a) Analyse your own games (and those of others)

Not all grandmasters use this method, but quite a lot do and owe a considerable amount of their success to doing this. Here it is important to understand the difference between turning on the engines and looking at their recommendations, and then going through the game thoroughly, questioning everything and trying to understand the difference between the moves played and the alternatives, as well as to determine the accuracy of what you were thinking during the game and the reason behind the mistakes you made.

b) Solve exercises

At the board you are trying to think. If you do not train your thinking at home, you will be like someone who never runs and enters a 10k race, only to find that it is tough going. He might complete it, but he will certainly walk a lot of the way…

c) Improve your openings

This works to some extent. It is easier playing good positions than to defend. And if you have good openings, you will get to play good positions most of the time. It is intentionally only third on the list, as the two other methods not only lead to better results in my estimation, they also have longevity that opening preparation does not have. Still, if you are already doing the other things, this does help.

d) Study the endgame

With a World Champion such as Magnus Carlsen there is no reason to put this after opening preparation on the list; and this is also not a question of priority. But understanding the endgame and remembering some of the main theoretical positions will definitely improve your game. If you want to combine this with b) I know a good source: Grandmaster Preparation – Endgame Play by yours truly. Read more…

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A few titles coming

June 23rd, 2014 159 comments

We will publish paperback editions of Attack&Defence and Endgame Play in my Grandmaster Preparation series on Wednesday next week.

We will print a German edition of the first volume in the Judit Polgar Teaches Chess series as soon as we get the cover fixed. This is harder than it should be, but hopefully it will work out soon.

Finally, I am happy to announce what I am working on at the moment. I am helping a good friend write a book on the way he understands chess. And boy does he understand chess:

Gelfand-Positional280

We have written some of the chapters already and have the raw material for all but the last chapter. I am very very happy with it. Actually, I am ecstatic. I hope you guys will support this project too.

 

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When to calculate – Different tools for different jobs

June 23rd, 2014 16 comments

I was asked again about when you should calculate and when you should trust your intuition. It is one of the big recurring problems of chess techniques and rightly so.

The Law of the Instrument as first phrased by Abraham Maslow goes like this: “The man with a hammer views every problem as a nail” (though Maslow said it less poetically). The relevance to chess is that we have different ways of thinking about a position and it is highly valuable to be able to shift between them, based on the demands of the position.

In some positions we do not really have to think. We need to recapture – or we already know what to play, because we spent last night studying the variation into the early hours. In these positions all we need to do is to ensure ourselves that this is indeed the case. Or said in another way:

The first thing we need to do is to establish if we have a choice

The next thing (baring that there is indeed a choice, without which it makes no sense not to just make a move immediately), the usual thing to do is to check the basic tactics in the position. We also call this for a candidate sweep.

Take this position:

Le Quang Liem – Svidler, Tromso World Cup 2013

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White to play

 It seems that there is not really a big choice, but once we look for a few seconds, we can see that there is indeed a choice and that one of them is vastly superior to the other.

After we have checked for candidates it makes sense to try to understand what our goals should be in the position. Are they short term or long term? Are they dynamic or static? Are they offensive or defensive?

In most cases the way to solve the problems we have in the position will be by gradually improving our position. But in some cases our opponent’s scope for improving his position is greater than ours (by my estimate about half the time, in case anyone was wondering) and it makes sense to consider choosing to change the nature of the game. This might not necessarily be possible, but it is something we might want to pay attention to.

Or we might want to pay attention to how our opponent would want to change the nature of the game.

I could go on – but so far I have actually not talked about calculation yet and this is sort of my point. It is an important tool. Very important. Yusupov once plucked the number 30% out of thin air as an estimate to how important it might be for the professional player.

Now some guys are calculating everything. You can recognise them easily, as they are always deeply frustrated with “boring” positions. Positions where there is nothing to calculate. This does not mean that there is nothing going on. It just means that the hammer is useless. It is time for the screw driver, the spanner or the plaster…

If this is you, I strongly recommend the 3Q method. You can find many posts about it on this blog under my training tips or you can go to the source and read Grandmaster Preparation – Positional Play.

And if you are the one hoping for a clear algorithm for when to calculate, I am sorry. Chess is too complicated for that. There are simple ways to approach things, but they will always be models. They are not the territory.

The Solution

Le Quang Liem took on d5 with the pawn and the game was soon agreed a draw. He could have secured a winning advantage with 23.Rxd5! based on 23…Rxd5 24.e6+! and White wins.

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