Author Archive

Chess960/Fischer Random

February 8th, 2019 50 comments

My friend GM Csaba Horvath once had dinner with Fischer in Budapest, after meeting him in the street. At some point during the dinner, Fischer asked him, “What do you think of ‘my’ chess?” (meaning 960). Csaba said: “I like it, but…” Fischer caught him off with a big grin. “No! No, buts!”

I received the friendly email below after my appearance on the Perpetual Chess Podcast.

I know he asks for my opinion, but I am more interested in other’s opinions. And I have also made this commitment not to defend any opinions in debates since taking up a post in FIDE. For obvious mental health related reasons :-).

I just listened to you on the perpetual chess podcast.

I really enjoyed it and realise that you’re experience in the chess world is vastly superior to mine and with that your perspective is greatly appreciated.

My intention is honest and sincere. I’m not about to post your reply on a forum and anything like that. I’m kinda wishing for the future of chess to be chess960 and was interested to hear your recent comment in the perpetual chess podcast. Genuinely interested, im too stoic to get upset by differing opinions but also believe these views and discussions to be extremely important to the future of chess.

I am extremely interested in getting your perspective on something that you mentioned regarding chess960 as ‘the Fischer random circus’.

During the podcast you also mentioned your preference for classical chess due to the ‘deep thinking’ aspect.

I have interpretted these 2 snippets as on the one hand you’re pro deep thinking yet anti chess960 (compared to classical chess). I hope I haven’t completely misrepresented your beliefs here, I’m just making conclusions following 90 minutes of listening.

So I guess my question is really:

Why do you on the 1 hand love thinking deeply and on the other regard chess960 as a ‘circus’. What am I missing that you are seeing?

I personally love chess960 because to me it is an excellent opportunity each and every game from move 1 to think hard with no auto-piloting in the opening. I mean you can’t just be a d4 player in chess960 you’d at least need to make an assessment first.

I actually find that I think deeper (in chess960) from move 1. To me it’s the deep thinking of chess that I love. In standard I have won many a game thanks to london system solely due to my opponent not being as familiar with it as me. But in chess960 I don’t get these opening edges (and vice versa) – to me that’s more pure chess than memorised lines bring to the board.

To me being given more variety of opening positions leads to more varied positions to assess which leads to more deep thinking.

But… classical/standard chess is sooo much more popular so I’m in the minority. So there must be something I’m missing. I think chess960 is like jazz whereas standard chess is more like classical music. Chalk and cheese as far as prep’s concerned.

The thing that I see commonly mentioned are ‘unbalanced’ starting positions as a reason against chess960. But as long as each player plays same position as white and black what’s the big deal? Or if that’s impractical then to be honest, it’s rather obvious that even at top level e.g. Carlsen v caruana that even a computers 2+ edge is often not even realised. So until humans improve considerably I don’t think these computer assessments on unfamiliar positions really impact the human results much. I think the human aspect would likely be the difference.

To me this is a matter of taste entirely. I also don’t like jazz too much. It is too rich and there is an information-overload happening to me when I listen to it. Which I do on rare occasions.

I like the tradition of classical chess. I like that I begin the game in the same position as Kasparov did. I like the patterns of openings.

All of Jason’s arguments are valid. To me it is a matter of taste. What do you guys think?

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Sam Shankland and “that” fortress

February 5th, 2019 19 comments

I have felt a need for a while to talk about the Giri – Shankland game. But obviously I do not want to give an inside story. Those are dull anyway, it is always the height of the ceiling or this and that. Because this was not about chess or chess understanding, as anyone who knows anything will know.

I was sitting in the cinema watching THE FAVOURITE with Kallia, telling her Sam had made a draw. Then five minutes later she said he had lost. I did not believe it. How can you lose this position? Sam’s manager, I and any idiot on the Internet was able to see that this was a fortress, whether or not they had read a New In Chess pocketbook or not. But Sam had indeed resigned in the position I had seen.

Of course you should be careful with such sweeping statements…

As the path to c8 suggested by Jan does not work out that well in practice…

I hope this example will be an encouragement to people that even GMs have bad days and that it does not define them. On the next two days, Sam beat Nepomniatchchi and Kramnik and finished the tournament on 50%, winning six rating points. After Kramnik’s retirement, organisers have received statements from the Indian and Israeli Federations, not to have Sam play with Anand or Gelfand in the last round, as losing to Sam can be a career ending experience, as both Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik can testify.
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Perpetual Chess Podcast

February 1st, 2019 10 comments

Jacob was on the Perpetual Chess Podcast, released this week. At Quality Chess we have finally gotten around to sponsor the podcast and we strongly encourage everyone else to give a little to continue this great free product.
Jacob spoke about a lot of things in the programme, some of which will be opened up for debate here on the blog next week, starting with the “960 circus?!” and the future of chess.
When you are interviewed, there is a temptation to hedge your bets and not give any opinions, but this does not make interesting radio and makes little sense to Jacob. So, he said what he was thinking. Others may disagree, but rather than thinking that is a personal issue, we will have a civilised airing of differences here on the blog.
Btw. The next Podcast will be on Game Changer, the chess publication of the year, if you are to believe the hype. This will certainly not be one to miss!

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Super Adhiban

January 8th, 2019 No comments

IM Sam Collins referred me to this email, because Adhiban said some nice things about the Quality Chess Academy, but I am putting it up here because Adhiban is fantastic and the game is fantastic and if you have half an hour to watch it, you should.

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Boris shares wisdom at the Quality Chess Academy

January 5th, 2019 2 comments

Boris participated in some of the training at the camp in November. We created a short video based on one of the examples where Boris felt the intended solution was not the ideal one.

Quality Chess Academy in Practice

December 17th, 2018 4 comments

I get lots of invitations to do camps all over the World. I cannot do them all, sadly, so I decided to create my own on Crete. The Quality Chess Academy. We had the first round in November and with 11 participants, our overall financial loss was less than the return tickets to Crete. So I would deem that a success.

The next camp will take place 8-14th May. Still at Lyttos Beach Hotel, which is simply awesome. 

So far not less than a handful have signed up. So the chance to come and have personal training with RB Ramesh and myself is yours.

The place is great, the atmosphere will be great, the weather will be great and it will be great for your chess. Go to if you are interested.

The Practice Part

I do not find it appropriate to take credit for other people’s successes. I have trained a number of players that have done well. Right after the camp in November GM Adhiban jumped to a career high of 2695 for example. But maybe the motivation that led him to come to the camp was the catalyst. We can never know.

But it is still nice to see people you spend time with do well. A game played in Spain a few days ago brought back memories of a week spent in Chennai with a bunch of ambitious kids. Even if they were quite misbehaving at times!

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Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko

December 15th, 2018 8 comments

My girlfriend gets upset with me whenever I claim to be old. She does not remember the fall of the wall at all, while I remember the Iran hostage crisis. I cry about the death/retirement of Rock ‘n Roll, while she sees it as a genre of Classical music, as I see Mozart, Gershwin or Charlie Parker. 
A decade ago Yusupov told me he participated in the European Championship and played eleven GMs between 2500 and 2600 of whom he had never heard at all! This was his “I am from the past” Epiphany. 
I have lots of them these days and honestly I enjoy them. I like the way new chess publishers are trying new things. As the old fart I am, I like what we do best of course, this is why we do it this way. But I really like that things are moving forward.
Yesterday I was made aware of two videos by GM Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko, whom I honestly still thought of as 21 years old. Actually, he is 32 and has three beautiful children, as the internet informs me. But thank you for Michael to making me aware of these videos, they are very complimentary to me.
The first one deals with the method of the three questions in a tactical setting, with a position I first saw in Byron Jacob’s wonderful little book Analyse to Win, but there were a small mistake, which was the justification for me including it in Excelling at Chess Calculation, with some chat.

White to play

The second position is more positional in nature and comes from one of his own games.

White to play

This one is a bit harder and I have to confess that I got it wrong! But it is all very logical and instructive.

Overall this first visual encounter with Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko was been a total pleasure for me. Not so much because of the nice recommendation of the three questions, but more because of the clarity and high level of his explanations of the positions. If you are looking for a private trainer, I think he teaches on, which apparently is not just about Puzzle Rush… You can find him on Facebook here.

Remembering Playing 1.e4

December 6th, 2018 13 comments

If you want to know your opening repertoire well, you need time to memorise it. Some of it will make a lot of sense and some of it will be concrete, but counter-intuitive. Sometimes a line a tempo down is no worse, for example.

I just played a blitz game where I successfully remembered all of John’s analysis on the Alekhine, but ran out of time… As online blitz games have no relevance for the real world, I am still pleased by being able to get all the way to +-. After this I missed mate in four and lost on time in a totally winning position. But who cares…

The main reason I remembered the line, was because of an attractive shot in this position (did not really happen). Often these types of anchors and little nuggets of information helps us remember what comes before.

White to play. What is the strongest continuation?

Find the game here.