Archive for the ‘Jacob Aagaard’s training tips’ Category

Sudden ideas

March 3rd, 2014 5 comments


[fen size=”small”]r5k1/1p3p2/p2p1Rpp/2pPqb2/2P5/7P/PP1Q2P1/5RK1 w – – 0 27[/fen]

White to play – what is the best option?


I saw a game a few days ago that made me think about something that often happens to us: While we are calculating our main line, going deep, looking for nuances, we can get a sudden epiphany! But what about: “this!”


While this sometimes is a stroke of genius, there is no guarantee that this is the case. But the emotional impact can be rather big, skewing our judgement.


The example in question is the following:

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Playing with shorter time controls

February 24th, 2014 136 comments


Before we get to the article, please have a look at these few positions and try to find the best move.

[fen size=”small”]2r1nrk1/p1q2p1p/1pppb1p1/4b3/P1P1P2Q/BPNR2NP/2P3P1/R5K1 b – – 0 19[/fen]

Black to play

[fen size=”small”]5q1k/p4rnp/2Np4/4b1B1/5p2/3Q3P/6P1/1R5K w – – 0 41[/fen]

White to play

[fen size=”small”]8/Q6p/3p1qk1/8/8/7P/8/7K b – – 0 51[/fen]

Black to play – How many moves to win?

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The inside lane – on Magnus Carlsen

February 17th, 2014 1 comment

Danish GM Peter Heine Nielsen, whose job it is to second Carlsen (a change of job from seconding Anand until Feb 2013) during events, with the exception of the – for him – conflict-of-interest match in Chennai, has written a short portrait of Carlsen in the Danish Federations magazine, Skakbladet.  There are a few passages I thought you guys would find interesting, so I am quoting randomly:

I seconded him for the first time in the 2005 World Cup. It was probably a surprise for everyone excluding Carlsen that he would get a big breakthrough. At least, I had book my flight so I could make it back to play in the Bundesliga the following weekend. But as a 14-year-old he was already ready to fight the world elite and qualified as the youngest ever to the Candidates Tournament.

This was my first experience of the Carlsen family’s approach to chess. The aim was constantly positive curiosity. I was banned from in any way pushing him to prepare or to in any way give him the impression that it was an important tournament.

The fun based approach came to the extreme in connection with the cooperation with Kasparov. After a few good training sessions the cooperation stopped, when Magnus was given homework!

He is a very independently thinking World Champion, who is not scared of going against cemented dogmas. World Championship matches have long been fought with deep opening analysis and lots of seconds, but Carlsen won the title with only fellow Norwegian Jon Ludvig Hammer helping him via Skype. Even Fischer had a bigger machine assisting him!

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Observation of the day (lunch break pocket philosophy)

February 12th, 2014 20 comments

While looking at the 2014 leaflet, I noticed that with 1.e4 it is Black who decides what the opening is called, while with 1.d4 this is not the case as frequently (Catalan v Queen’s Gambit, Nimzo/QID/Catalan). Obviously we have a Scotch/Italian/Ruy Lopez issue, but I cannot really think of any other 1.e4 opening where it is not Black that decides?!

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February 10th, 2014 13 comments

I know I had promised to put up Part II of Ray’s question, but I have been hit by a wave of energy over the last few days and have spent it all on ENDGAME PLAY, which looks like it will be ready for publication around the 30th April or something like that. I might even have some early copies with me to the Danish Championship in Skorping, though I cannot guarantee this.

For today, I just wanted to underline the importance of studying imagination. Essentially, imagination covers all things non-standard. It is outside the usual pattern recognition or calculation, and thus does not fit into some of the more popular current models of the game. However, it is an important part of Dvoretsky’s teaching and I ahve always taken it very seriously. Solving is definitely a way to improve your imagination.

As an exercise,  take a look at this position and think of a good idea for White (it is deep and White is by no means winning).

Goganov – Andersen, Yerevan 2014

[fen size=”small”]r3kb1r/pp1b2pB/1q2pp2/n2pB2n/3P4/2N1P3/PPQ2PPP/R3K1NR w KQkq – 0 13[/fen]

White to play – What is the trickiest move?

Let us add an exercise that looks a bit the same, but is both easier and more fun!

Vigorito – Kelleher, US 2011

[fen size=”small”]2rqkb1r/pp1b3p/2n1pp2/3p2pn/3P3B/P1NBPN2/1PQ2PPP/R3K2R w KQk – 0 15[/fen]

 White to play and win

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How to avoid going into suicidal complications – Part 1

February 3rd, 2014 11 comments


Some months ago we had a question on the blog (quoted below in italics) and I wanted to come back to it for a while, I was just really stressed out and on auto-pilot (yes this is also why I have not completed Endgame Play; I did not want it to be a bad book). But having gone through a five-day juice detox, I feel human again.

I will answer this question in two columns, as there are two games to relate to. The other one will come next Monday.

Interesting column and game! What struck me especially is your comment that you chose a move which you knew was bad, because you bended with respect to another variation. I would like to share a similar experience I had in two of my own national league games, only it went the other way around, i.e., I chose for unclear/dubious complications against my (lack of) intuition. In the most recent one (played some weeks ago) I was White against a 2300 opponent:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 Ne5 6.Bf4 Ng6 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bxc4 a6 (I had prepared the pawn sacrifice 8…Nxe4 at home. It is very dangerous for black, so he played after some thought a move which I hadn’t looked at at home) 8…a6 9.Nbd2 Ne5 (this came as a surprise to me. I had mostly looked at 9…e5 which would have transposed to known territory). 10.Be2 Nxf3+ 11.Nxf3 e6 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 exd5 14.e5 Ne4 15.Bxe4 (the computer prefers 15.0-0 +/=) 15…dxe4 16.Qb3?! (I had seen black’s reply, but I hadn’t calculated deeply enough to see that this is very dangerous for white. The originally planned 16.Qa4 and 17.Qxe4 gives white a risk-free edge, since I have a kingside pawn majority supported by centralised heavy pieces, which should give me good attacking chances. Still I chose for the more risky route. I should have remembered Nunn’s advice ‘don’t analyse unnecessary tactics’ – I’m still wondering why I didn’t just play the safe move.). 16…Qd3! 17.Qxb7 Rd8 18.Bg5? (a horrible move played without much deep thought, giving away all the dark squares around my king to my opponent. I could still have bailed out with 18.Qc6+ with a draw. The computer suggests 18.a3 with a slight plus for white. This is a clear case of bending to me; I stopped calculating after black’s 21st move, but in reality that position is already more or less lost for white. Black’s king is much safer than white’s). 18…Be7! 19.Bxe7 Kxe7 20.Qxc7+ Rd7 21.Qc5+ Ke6 22.Qe3? (22.h4 is relatively best). 22…Rc8 23.Qxd3 exd3 (with a won position for black. He finishes it off in an instructive manner) 24.f4 Rc2 25.0-0 Rxb2 26.a4 d2 27.Rad1 Rd4 28.a5 Kf5 29.Rf2 Ke4 30.Rf3 Rd3 31.Rf2 Kd4 32.Kf1 Kc3 33.Ke2 Rb4 34.Rf3 Re4+ 35.Kf2 Kc2 36.Rxd3 Kxd3 37.Ra1 Rxf4+ 38.Kg3 Rc4 0-1.


While it seems clear which mistakes I made in these particular games, I have the following question Jacob: what is in your opinion the best way to train to change this habit of choosing for complications even though you have the feeling it’s kind of suicidal? Which of your books is/are best suited to work on this?


Sorry for this long post, but you kind of invited the readers to no be shy :-). Besides, it is on topic for a change :-).

My Comments:

As everyone who reads this blog regularly will know, Read more…

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A quick point about decision making and calculation

January 27th, 2014 5 comments


Rowson – Bisby, Birmingham 2013


[fen size=”small”]8/7r/1QPp1bk1/3Pp3/2N1P3/8/5pPn/4KBBq w – – 0 47 [/fen]
White to play

Take the time you need to solve it. Write down what you want to play and why (don’t write a novel on a stamp, but find a solid reason, be it a move or otherwise).

“The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” ― Carl von Clausewitz

I just finished a training session with a gifted student. In preparation for these sessions I give the student “sheets”, which consist of six positions with insufficient time to solve them. The content of them is random. I do not evenly dice out positional, tactical, calculation, strategy, endgame and what-not in order to give a rounded experience. This is what I would do in a book, or would do with a student where there is something specific I would want to work on.

Although the sheets are hard and I doubt if any of my students has ever managed to score 6/6 on any of them, despite ratings that would make me beg for a draw with White, there are moments when I am very happy. It tends not to be the ones we focus on, but I wanted to give an example from today’s session. As I assume you have given it your best shot, I will give you the solution in words (so as not to catch the eye with the right moves).

But first off I want to say why I was especially happy about his answer to this exercise: because he had no evaluation or variation attached to it. It was found by elimination. For this reason it was swift and he could move on with the rest of the sheet – or game if you like. The correct move is to take the pawn with the queen, as if White takes with the king, as Rowson did in the game, Black could win by playing his rook to f7. Black missed this and the game ended in a draw after a few messy moves later on (I showed the finish in a post a few months ago).

For chess is after all not a calculation exercise (though this is an important tool at times), but a game where we have to make a lot of decisions about what to play on the next move. We do not need to “solve the position”; we need to answer the question: which is the best move – and then play it. How you make this decision is dependent on the type of position. Having a lot of tools in your toolbox is what the Grandmaster Preparation series is all about.

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The illusion of control II

January 21st, 2014 52 comments


Chess is commonly seen as a science by many of those who practise it. Our way of talking about a position as “winning” rather than “much better” is just one sign of this. And obviously chess does contain a lot of scientific traits. Both opening and endgame work uses skills you would expect a scientist to use.
But chess is not a science. It is a game. It is all about taking a lot of difficult decisions in insufficient time. In order to do this, it is very important that we understand the nature of our task fully and the way it affects our emotions.
I have worked with a number of players over the years who have the following characteristics:

* They get into time trouble

* They don’t sacrifice material

* They calculate everything; preferably checking it over methodically as well

* They are what you would call “nice guys”

It was maybe 15 years ago that I realised that all of their behaviour was centred around maintaining control. Time trouble came from spending too much time in positions where a decision, any decision, was needed. They did not sacrifice material because they did not like the feeling of losing control. They checked things extensively, to feel in control and they were always pleasant, in a misguided attempt to control people’s impression of them.
But neither chess nor people can be handled optimally with one foot on the brake.
Chess quickly reaches a depth of complexity where it cannot be controlled. However, we can learn to evaluate our chances realistically and understand the deeper strategic needs of the position – and respond to them based on this understanding. In this way you can learn the confidence you get from knowing you do the right things (to the best of your ability). You might get excited when you sacrifice a piece based on intuition and general concepts, but you will not be frightened.
When you are a child you need the safety provided by your parents and other guardians to develop an understanding of the world. When you are an adult, you know the world, you know that there is no way to control it. All you can do is prepare, do your work, calculate the odds and put your bets where your understanding tells you is best.

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