Archive for June, 2013

Is chess really a young man’s game?

June 24th, 2013 76 comments

Diagram Spain
Black to play

Kasparov no longer plays and, having passed 50, if he did play he would just be a has-been, at least if you listen to the words coming out of his own mouth. “Chess is becoming younger” is one of the claims he has made, in-between his disrespect for the Anand – Gelfand World Championship match last year and his suggestions that Anand should retire.

It all sounds very plausible when someone like the greatest player in history says this with the authority and conviction he usually produces. But ask yourself: would Kasparov be a top 10 fixture if he was still playing? Do you think he would be that much worse than Aronian, as an example, if he was still as determined to play chess as he used to be?

Insiders all know that Kasparov is “in love” with Magnus Carlsen and has wanted to see him as the World Champion for a long time. He started the talk of an Aronian – Carlsen match as the only legitimate thing; but personally I prefer the current situation where we have a shaky qualification system, when I think of the alternative of the late 1990s, where the World Champion offered a match for two players, and then gave the loser a World Championship match. Actually, the match that Kramnik won was first turned down by Anand, as far as I know.

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We have a confirmed date (98%)

June 20th, 2013 132 comments

We are a little disappointed by our printer. How dare they put anyone else in front of us in the queue? Well, easily it appears. But with Kotronias on the King’s Indian – Fianchetto Systems uploaded and the King’s Gambit being uploaded today, everything is well and we dare project a publication date for seven books. This includes Playing the Trompowsky – An Attacking Repertoire, as well as the Mongoose title Best Play by Alexander Shashin and the paperback versions of Calculation, Positional Play and Strategic Play.

Things can still go wrong, get delayed and so on. But at least there is something to look forward to.

Vassilios Kotronias KID – Fianchetto Systems 12 July
Richard Pert Playing the Trompowsky 12 July
John Shaw The King’s Gambit 12 July
Ntirlis/Aagaard Playing the French Summer
Emanuel Berg GM 14 – The French (Winawer) Summer
Axel Smith Pump Up Your Rating Summer
Jacob Aagaard Attack and Defence Summer
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 Autumn
Ftacnik (Aagaard) GM6a – Beating the Anti-Sicilians Autumn
Danny Gormally Mating the Castled King Autumn
Jacob Aagaard Endgame Play Autumn
Tibor Karolyi Mikhail Tal’s best games 1 Autumn
Judit Polgar From GM to Top Ten Autumn
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – ASicilian & French Winter
Jacob Aagaard Thinking Inside the Box Winter
Ftacnik (Aagaard) GM6b – The Najdorf Winter
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The necessity of companionship

June 17th, 2013 26 comments

Michael Neill, the Hollywood success coach, once said that he had met no one in his time in Hollywood who had achieved success on their own. Everyone had someone who supported them, someone who was a part of their team in one way or another. This could either be as a manager, coach, parent, sibling, spouse and so on. It was always: “my people will call your people” and so on. The construction was always different.
I heard this on his internet radio show in early 2007 and I immediately could see reasons why this was so, on top of the obvious sharing of tasks: we are social animals and we simply do much better if we are not alone in our quest.
In chess you have very few exceptions to this rule (Fischer, Larsen). I would like to point to the two most obvious examples of symbiotic relationships:
Kasparov had Dokhoian to carry his suitcases, book his tickets and help him with the chess.
Topalov has Danailov to organise everything and tell him what to do.
In the first case the player was the boss, in the second case the manager is the boss. I attach no value judgment to either set-up; they both suited the player ideally. Kasparov has a great need to dominate his surroundings; Topalov, on the other hand, would rather play tennis than be involved in business discussions.
The consequences of this idea were dramatic for me in 2007. I played in the Spanish team Championship and got a few ideas at home from John, who had taken on the job as my second. The same happened during the British Championship. In both events I scored 2700 performances and at times played brilliantly.
I won the remaining points I needed to go over 2500 and became a grandmaster – as well as won the British Championship.
What this means for you!
Not everyone is able to hire a second for a tournament, but there are a lot of things you can do to add people to your chess team. The following is probably the only training tip I have that can compete with the 20 minute/6 times a week tip: create a training team!
The idea is simple: collect 1-3 friends of similar strength and meet up regularly to do training together.
The main training should be solving, but you can also discuss opening ideas and play training games. But this would require that everyone studies consistently, which is often not the case.
The combination of social interaction with friendly competition is very powerful. It has the power to produce champions…

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

June 10th, 2013 104 comments


My Danish teammate Grandmaster Sune Berg Hansen mentions Foundation of Chess Strategy by another Danish Grandmaster, Lars Bo Hansen, as the chess book that has had the greatest influence on his own chess. It is not so much the explanations or the chess in the book, but the concept of dividing players into four categories that made an impression on Sune.

Lars Bo Hansen puts a name to four types of players and debates how they should play and how to play against them. They are: Activists, Reflectors, Pragmatics and Theorists.

They are divided into a grid that looks like this:

Lars Bo Hansen describes the inherent characteristics of each player, their strengths and weaknesses and so forth. While I find the chess a bit uninspired in the book, I do find the concept extremely useful and would recommend anyone to read this book and identify themselves in the grid.

The point to this is that the idea of the all-round player is close to being an illusion. Of all the World Champions the only one continuously mentioned as an all-rounder is Boris Spassky and I have a feeling that this is as much tradition as it is fact. And anyway, the ‘narrow-minded’ players who beat him up in matches, Petrosian, Karpov and Fischer all stand above him in chess history as far as I am concerned.

So, what we should do is design our opening repertoire according to our style and slowly improve in the areas where we are weak (avoiding them at all costs usually means a lot of rating points). But there are parts of chess that are better suited to our way of thinking, to our character and so on.

A final note on Hansen’s book: The references to business are poor as far as I am concerned and could with benefit be ignored entirely. Luckily they quickly disappear from the book. The idea of this particular grid does not originate in the world of business anyway; as with so many other things, it was thought up in Russia. I first saw it in Mark Dvoretsky’s writings as a brief note so it is possible the idea was his to start with.

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Quality Chess joins forces with Forward Chess

June 7th, 2013 44 comments

We have been negotiating for a while with the owners of Forward Chess relating to our books being published on their app. We are happy to announce that we have come to agreement and that we have signed an agreement.

This is of course the easy part; next follows the conversion of our books to their format. It will be a lot of work and it will take time before all our books will be available in this format; if ever (some books are no longer relevant). But it is certainly the intention that most of our future books will be published in this format.


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How to become a World Champion

June 3rd, 2013 32 comments

During the candidates tournament in London I had dinner with my good friend Alan Minnican and not surprisingly, the conversation circled to chess improvement at some point. Alan was considering lessons, but is very busy with work. I assured him that hiring a good trainer would be worth it, but that the first thing he should do was to spend 20-30 minutes a day solving exercises.

Now, usually when you give someone advice, nothing happens. People generally do not change their habits or their way of approaching things and for this reason rarely have changed results. But of course there are exceptions. Alan turns out to be one of these:

“You can thank Jacob for his chat at the candidates and his recommendation for daily calculation/combination work. I only have two books here: Calculation and his older one Excelling at Combinational Play.” Alan Minnican, 2013 U-2200 ACO World Champion.

Besides just stating that the first advice given in this series of postings has already paid off with tournament success, I want to talk about an issue I have been thinking about recently.

You get what you pay for

Although this old adage certainly is not true regarding everything, it does seem to be true when it comes to chess training. I see a lot of kids and amateurs using free exercises from or in their training. The attraction of having a rating for your solving and to have a system that chooses the right exercises for you is of course high. Unfortunately the quality of the exercises is generally low. So, in order to satisfy a very primal need for instant gratification (the rating part) and follow the basic business model we use (money in good, money out bad) people end up spending a lot of time dealing with very low-quality training material. And a chess book is really not that expensive!

But I would like to add that you really want to use a somewhat recent book, which has been checked with computers. Not because people played worse in the past, but because sometimes something flashy was stupid and the exercise in itself was pointless.

A good example of a book I should have stayed away from is ****** ***** ***** by ********* ******. There I found the following exercise:

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