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Making a solving collective

August 21st, 2017 16 comments

One thing that many people struggle with is solving puzzles on their own. It requires some discipline to get started and distractions can get you diverted. It is popular to meet up with friends and solve together. It makes it social and a bit competitive. But for most people, this is not an option. Their friends are far away and local players might have no ambition or be unsuitable for other reasons.

The idea I came up with years ago that worked really well, was to have group training on PlayChess (or it could be many other servers or even Whatsapp on your phone).

The way to do it is that one person has gathered positions in advance, preferably from a Quality Chess book of course, but other good exercise books have been published (I have been told).

He presents the first problem to the group.

When you have a solution, you say so.

When only one person is left, he gets an extra minute to find the solution, while the others prepare their solutions (but don’t press return).

When time’s up everyone gives their solutions.

Correct solutions get one point, mistakes get no points. The group decides if the solution is correct in disputes.

Next problem.

After a fixed amount of time, you have a winner.

This worked for a long time with a group I set up. I supplied them with the exercises, but since then these have been published in many books, so there are no excuses…

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Umnov studies

August 17th, 2017 3 comments

Our friend and my compatriot Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen won a composition tournament in front of the two modern giants of chess competition, Afek and Pervakov. On request, he has written a small report for our blog, which I have decided to attach in a PDF.

But I wanted to give the readers a chance to solve some of the studies on their own. First of all, here is Steffen’s study.

White to play and win

Read more…

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How to contact us

August 14th, 2017 19 comments

Just a quick note on the best way to approach us on anything.

a) Write to us on the blog. In 99% of all cases, others will be interested in our answers as well and it is not private. There will be some exceptions, like sending us links not everyone should see or something like this. In that case:

b) email one of us. If you email all five of us, you will take time away from four people who would not reply that could be used working on books. If you email all of us, expect to be reprimanded harshly.

c) contact us privately on messenger Sunday evening with trivial questions. Guess what brought up this post! Please respect that when you send a message to one of us that will come up on our phone outside office hours, you are invading our privacy. Please don’t do it.

To sum up:

Almost everything should be put on the blog. We check everything and answer all serious questions. In rare cases, email one of us.

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Summer madness…

July 31st, 2017 323 comments

Hi guys!

Sorry, we have been really busy. Colin and Andrew have played a closed tournament in Dundee. As you can see elsewhere, Andrew won his first closed GM-tournament, but did not make the norm.

Personally, I have been to Copenhagen, Berlin, San Sebastian and San Francisco this summer. Partly on holiday and partly working on projects/training. I am now back at home, preparing for a 6 player-training camp that starts on Saturday. The first two players arrive Thursday and four more on Friday. Four GMs and two IMs. I hope we will have a great week.

Colin is laying the final hands on Grandmaster Repertoire – Pirc Defence by Mihail Marin and Andrew is finishing Playing 1.d4 d5 – A Classical Repertoire by Nikolaos Ntirlis, also known as Nikos.

On Wednesday we are publishing e3 Poison by Axel Smith and Chess Behind Bars by Carl Portman. It is also the release date for the paperback version of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand and yours truly. The hardback was released exactly a year ago during the XtraCon Open in Copenhagen. Quality Chess sponsored the event this year as well. It was won by Jobava after some amazing fighting chess…

Today I am a year older. And a lot of kg lighter… See for yourself!

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Critical Moments – two opposing definitions

July 11th, 2017 77 comments

Having debated CRITICAL MOMENTS here on the blog with a number of readers, I received a longer email from our friend and one-time author, Amatzia Avni.

Hello Jacob,

I’m following your blog and although I haven’t yet read your “Thinking inside the box”, I strongly disagree with some observations you make regarding the nature of “critical position” (or critical moment).

First, here is your own definition: “A critical moment …is something along the lines of a moment where the problems in front of you (hold great complexity) and failing to find a good move will a) lead to great suffering, or b) lose the advantage”. 29/4/13

“A position where the difference between the best move and the second-best move is high, let’s say half a point”. 9/5/2017.

Correct. (Also, when the decision is irreversible or hard to rectify). Read more…

The Best Chess Book I have ever written

June 9th, 2017 154 comments

Two days ago was the official publication date for Thinking Inside the Box.

I am not a very sentimental person, so it was not a special day for me. Holding the book in the hand does not have the same emotional experience as it did holding The Panov/Botvinnik Attack in my hands in 1998. Incidentally, that is the only one of my books that is out of print as far as I know.

Despite the lack of excitement with the physical form, I am very pleased with the book. At some point, someone speculated on this blog that I had lost interest in the project, as a way to explain the long time it took to get around to write it. The reality is very different. Let’s not wrap it up in euphemisms.

I simply did not believe in my abilities. I knew what I wanted to say and I have been teaching it for years, but writing a book is much harder than it may seem from the outside. And I set myself a goal back in 2004, when I decided to do this as a profession: to always make the next book I wrote the best book I had ever written. I think I succeeded with this all the way up to 2016. The first Gelfand book was better than the second.

As far as I know, only Anish Giri disagrees. Don’t get me wrong; if I had written them in reverse order, I might still be on track.

Because, I honestly think that Thinking Inside the Box became as good as I wanted it to be. People will always disagree on some of my opinions and others would have preferred a book that went deep with the subject they found most interesting, but the book is as I wanted it to be.

Any feedback from people who have read the book till the end is very welcome. I am happy to discuss anything.

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What we are working on at the moment…

May 30th, 2017 104 comments

It was suggested that instead of doing a long-term publishing schedule, we should simply reveal what we are working on at the moment. Sure, why not. Not sure it will be more coherent though!

John is working on e3 Poison by Axel Smith. It is almost done. Then it will go to typesetting and printing. I should say that we also have another Axel Smith book coming down the line.

After he finished this week, John will return to the dungeon where he wrote the King’s Gambit. He will not be allowed to work on any other book, until he has finished Playing 1.e4 – Sicilian & French

Read more…

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Solving and guessing

April 25th, 2017 34 comments

The last four weeks I have been travelling through Asia, visiting 12 cities in eight countries. Sometimes for less than 24 hours, arriving at 6 in the morning in Manila, for example, and flying out at half past midnight the same day…

On my trip, I have talked a lot about Thinking Inside the Box and the core ideas in the book. It has been an amazing experience, seeing how the ideas have resonated with people of all ages and all levels, from young kids to top grandmasters. I wish I was going to write the book now, as the ideas are so much clearer in my head and the diverse ways I have found to explain them would have improved it.

One thing I realised along the way is to emphasise the difference between guessing and solving. When I was an improving player, I struggled a lot with solving exercises. I would find ideas and then my concentration would crumble. I would flick to the solutions page and see how close I was.

Because close was the best I did – for a long time. Discipline was always a problem for the younger me. I had a spine similar to cooked spaghetti, according to a friend.

What I needed to do was to get into a habit of solving positions. When we are talking about tactical exercises, you should calculate all the variations till the end, working out all the details. This is an important skill to develop in training. It will take you far.

But this does not mean that guessing is all wrong. In my model there are four types of decisions.

1. Automatic Decisions
2. Simple Decisions
3. Critical Moments
4. Strategic Decisions

I deal more with this model in both Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play and in Thinking Inside the Box. And in previous blog posts, most likely. (No, I do not routinely look through them!) For here it suffices to say that only automatic decisions and critical moments require a high level of accuracy. Simple decisions are often taken on an intuitive basis and are as such, a pure guess. Strategic decisions include more calculation and logical thinking, but will in most cases include guessing as well.

This is important, because we simply cannot work everything out till the end. If you try to solve every move, you lose on time. For some people this is their existence.

The average player is directed by impulses and his inability to stay concentrated. The great practical player finds a good balance between guessing and solving and is always aware of which tool he uses. Moving from the first category to the second is a big jump and one the Grandmaster Preparation series is all about (as well as a few other things).

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