Archive for May, 2013

The news you have been waiting for, but still will not believe

May 30th, 2013 232 comments

John Shaw: The King’s Gambit is going to the printer next week. It will be 672 or 680 pages. It will be released together with Playing the Trompowsky and Kotronias on the King’s Indian at the end of June, but we will probably use the chance to shoot out any websales we have earlier, if it comes along.

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Interesting post from Axel

May 28th, 2013 No comments

Nice game from Sigemann Cup with nice comments by Axel Smith.

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A question of focus

May 27th, 2013 29 comments


I was quite fascinated with the annotations to the following position in New in Chess by two Dutchmen, Anish Giri and Willy Hendriks. But before we talk about it, we can make it an exercise for those who want it to be.

Black to play and win - Carlsen

Black to play and win

The thing that fascinated me about this position (which of course is Svidler – Carlsen, London Candidates 2013) was the way the two authors talked about the missed possibility. Hendriks writes that “you may expect it to be rather trivial (the idea that is, not the resulting variations)” while Giri writes that “…but the line is not for mortals.”

Had I not been in London that day I might have written the same thing in my article for Skakbladet. It is a normal respectful thing to say; the winning idea was nothing out of the ordinary, but making it work takes a bit of effort and since the best player in the world did not play it, the lines must be really difficult.

But as so often, reality is surprising. When Carlsen was asked at the press conference if he had looked at 25…Bxh3! he said no, clearly surprised. He had a look at the position, maybe 10 seconds, and then concluded that it was “decisive”. Those difficult lines were not so difficult for him to work out. After the press conference I took a few minutes to work out that 26.dxe4 Rg5 27.g3 Bg4 28.f3 Rb2! is indeed decisive, on account of 29.Qxb2 Bxf3 and the dual threat of …Bxd1 and …Qh3.

(Update: John pointed out that Csaba Balogh wrote in the Chess Evolution newsletter that Carlsen missed 28…Rb2. The delusion is total.)

In the same article Hendriks makes some comments about Positional Play, which he has told me he has not read yet, and that the comments should be seen as a general reaction to Monokroussos’s review. But it does allow me to underline the basic point of the three questions training method (always remember that it is not meant to be used on every move at the board, though as one of many tools in your kit, it is acceptable) is that it trains your focus.

Clearly had Carlsen, for a second, thought about winning the game in an attack, he would have done so. Even when you are onboard the 2900 rocket your focus is not perfect. This teaches us that we can always improve this, and working with books like those in the Grandmaster Preparation series can aid this.

Later in his article Hendriks says that the only training method that works is looking at good chess. This is a very extreme statement and in some way I think it has helped me a bit to understand how some authors with similar views look at those of us who include general principles in our writing: as opposing extremists. I am not saying that Hendriks does this, but others clearly do in the way they write about the opposing view. Basically, what they believe is that the people who talk about “rules in chess” must view the move Nf3-e1 as a move away from the centre (although, in the case I am thinking of, it should be seen as Nf3-e1-c2-e3-d5, taking the only viable route to the centre). The problem with seeing it in the intelligent way is that it is less extreme and does not work well as an enemy. Or they might want to think that concrete lines cannot co-exist in a belief system that includes general assumptions about chess. If this is you, please read Mark Dvoretsky’s books. They are very concrete and they have lots of general assumptions.

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New Blog link – Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith

May 20th, 2013 30 comments


Later this summer we shall publish a book by Swedish IM Axel Smith called Pump Up Your Rating. Axel is also writing a related blog called Pump Up Your Rating at the following link. That blog is not controlled by Quality Chess, so it will be up to Axel what he writes about, but I suspect chess improvement will be a recurring theme.

I have read the first draft of Axel’s book and I am delighted with how it is shaping up, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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Ten ways to improve in chess

May 20th, 2013 132 comments

Clearly this blog is not brilliantly planned out and not intended to give a clear course in chess improvement. It is simply about topics I have considered along the way, which for some reason are in the forefront of my mind.

But this week I am trying to write a disciplined blog entry; one that I feel I should write. It is a bit like going for a swim in the ocean, rather than lying on the beach watching the girls walk by. It is good for you and you might even enjoy it once you get going, but it is not your preferred choice.

So here come ten possible ways for you to improve your chess. No matter who you are, if you are seeking my advice on anything, you will find at least a few strategies here that will help you along the way.

1. Analyse your own games deeply (and the games of others).

2. Solve puzzles regularly (my advice is six times a week x 20-30 minutes).

3. Understand what type of player you are and adjust your style accordingly.

4. Push your levels of concentration upwards and become a fighter.

5. Play real openings. Throw away the London, c3-Sicilian or whatever rubbish you are playing. If you want to develop as a player, playing main lines is important.

6. Learn by heart all the 222 obligatory positions from Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual.

7. Play through game collections with good comments.

This might vary from player to play; for some the Move by Move stuff from Everyman might be reasonable. But for most readers of this blog, I recommend books written either by great players, or books with a great reputation. For example, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Kasparov, Nunn, Anand, Karpov (the old books), San Luis 2005 and so on.

8. Use your body to the best effect for the game (stop poisoning it, for example).

9. Analyse your openings deeply and find your own systems with your own ideas.

10. Understand the basic principles of dynamics, statics and strategic play. These can be studied indefinitely of course, but you can always improve your understanding.

There are always a lot of ways to do anything. Anyone who wants to sell “the only way” is either selling chess studies or tablebase printouts. In the same way, it is possible to reach the same conclusion by many different thinking processes.

The only real danger here is that you fall in love with one system and become fixed to it. You can be the openings guy, or the endings guy, or the expert in solving studies. My closest-sitting colleague in the office, GM Colin McNab, is the last two. I am not sure if it has given his over-the-board play any great advantage, compared to if he had spread out his studies. On the other hand, he just regained the British Championship in solving (yes, Nunn and two other World Champions were competing)…

If you have to pick only one strategy (could be ‘Number 11’ for all I care), I would recommend to either do the one that excites you or the one you know you have been delaying forever.

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Stabbing John in the chest with guilt

May 17th, 2013 18 comments

John just received this e-mail:

Dear John,

I pre-ordered your book “King’s gambit” last autumn for my son as a Christmas present. Do you know when it will be published?


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Teach me Tiger

May 17th, 2013 6 comments

We have for the last nine years been pressuring Tiger Hillarp-Persson to write another chess book after the hugely successful and in my opinion simply wonderful Tiger’s Modern. I just pushed again and he was squirming a bit, saying that he might get a round to it.

More importantly, he said that he is teaching a bit these days and that he has created a nice little website. So we thought, if we push that, maybe he will feel grateful and write another book for us. Is it too much to ask?


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Analysing your own games

May 14th, 2013 15 comments

Update: A clearer conclusion has been added.

There are many ways to improve in chess, and I shall list a few of them next time. But this week, I want to focus on just one area – analysing your own games (as well as those of others). The simple yet important point is that, as with everything else in life, if it is not done well, you will not feel the benefits.

Mauro – Marina Brunello, Perugia 2011
Marina A

22…Bxg5 23.Qxg5 Qd8 24.Qf4? 24.Rf6 with a worse, but still playable, position was to be preferred. 24…Bxf3 Now Black wins. 25.gxf3 Rc6 26.Bg5 Qe8 27.Bh6 f5 28.exf6 Qf7 29.axb3 cxb3 30.Qe5 Rac8 31.Bd2 Rb6 32.Be3 b2 33.Rb1 Rb7 34.Bd2 a6 35.h4 Rb5 36.Qd6 Qxf6 37.Qxa6 Rcb8 38.Qd6 Qf5 39.Kg2 R5b6 40.Qd7 R6b7 0–1

22…b2 was better, in Marina’s opinion. She was following the computer’s line of thinking and concluded that Black was doing well after 23.Rf1 Rf8 and now either 24.Rh3 Bxg5 25.Qxg5 f6 26.Qg4 Qe4 and Black wins, or 24.Re3 Qa5 25.Bxf8 Rxf8 26.Rh3 Bxg5 27.Qxg5 f6! 28.Qe3 Qxa2 29.exf6 Bd5 30.Qh6 Rf7 and Black wins.

Checking over her analysis I asked the first question that came to mind.

Marina B
Why should White go with the rook to f1 instead of b1, with the simple idea of taking the pawn? I put the move into the machine and immediately it went ballistic with 23.Rb1 Bxg5 24.Qxg5 Qe4, with the idea of …Qxb1 and …Qe1. But after 25.Rf1 b1=Q, things are not so simple:

Marina C
Obviously it looks intimidating with two black queens on the board, but it does not require a lot of human brute force to find: 26.Qf6! Qxf1+ 27.Kxf1 Qb1+ 28.Ke2 Bxf3+ 29.gxf3

Marina D

I am sure the computer was suffering from a horizon problem when it first approached this position and just counted the pennies. But as our regular readers will know, quality trumps quantity every time! Black has to take a perpetual check.

Conclusion: This is not a small point about computer horizons, as it came across at first. My apologies. The idea was to be inquisitive when analysing your own games. To ask questions (and if you like using a computer, then at least make it a dialogue) and to find the answers. To remember what you were thinking during the game and find out what was right and what was wrong. It is an excellent feedback opportunity on the 4-5 hours you spent playing the game. But if you just spacebar your way through it, copying down computer evaluations, your benefit will be slim to none. Invest your mind and soul in the analysis and you will reap great rewards.

Thank you to Marina for allowing me to use this example.

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