Archive for September, 2013

This week it is a practical lesson: solve six of these and write me in the morning…

September 29th, 2013 43 comments

We are very busy today. All sorts of things going on, including posting a lot of books.

So, this weeks training is the promised easier sheet (easier – not easy). The exercises can be found here and the solutions in pgn here.

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September 29th, 2013 3 comments

I am in Budapest for the yearly Polgar-sister chess festival. This year it looks to be even bigger than ever. I met a number of great chess personalities already, organisers like Malcolm Pein and Jeroen van Berg, assisted a highly stressed Lawrence Trent in buying matching trousers for his burgundy blazer, discussed future books with Tibor Karolyi and exchanged anecdotes with GM Csaba Horvath.

Last year was great, but this year is billed as bigger and better. Special guest will be Garry Kasparov who is staying at the presidential suite of Hotel President. It has bullet proof windows and a helicopter pad. To me it feels more like a gangster pad than presidential, but then big K was always a gangster on the board! I hope I will get a chance to shaky his hand; of the few heroes, he is probably the biggest…

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In depth review of the King’s Gambit by Smerdon

September 26th, 2013 45 comments

ChessVibes have an interesting review of The King’s Gambit by John Shaw.

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Requested Publishing Schedule

September 24th, 2013 205 comments

OK, so a number of you have asked for a new publishing schedule. With Christmas coming, there are fewer slots available at the printer. So we do not have any fixed dates, with the exception of three books coming on Friday:

Grandmaster Preparation – Attack & Defence

Pump Up Your Rating

Grandmaster Repertoire 14 – The French Defence 1

So, here it goes.

Playing the French will be out in about a month.

John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – A Grandmaster Guide – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines Autumn
Danny Gormally Mating the Castled King Autumn
Jacob Aagaard Grandmaster Preparation – Endgame Play Autumn
Emanuel Berg Grandmaster Repertoire 15 – The French Defence Vol 2 Autumn
Tibor Karolyi Mikhail Tal’s best games 1 Autumn
Boris Avrukh GM Repertoire 17 – The Classical Slav (4…dxc4) Winter
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – A Grandmaster Guide – Sicilian & French Winter
Jacob Aagaard Grandmaster Preparation – Thinking Inside the Box Winter
Judit Polgar From GM to Top Ten – Judit Polgar Teaches Chess 2 Winter
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The tasks of a chess trainer

September 20th, 2013 4 comments


Recently I have felt compelled to consider what the properties of the ideal chess trainer should be. Obviously there are a few different types of chess trainers, each with their own function. Let’s have a look at them:

a) the junior trainer

This starts with teaching children the rules, notation and so on, then goes on to teaching them basic strategic concepts, such as development, king safety, the value of the pieces.

The junior trainer will often go through games with a group of children, discussing ideas, telling them when to look out for simple opportunities and so on.

The junior trainer will in most cases be a much stronger player than the children, even though he might not appear to the readers of this blog to be a very strong player. After decades in this game we tend to forget how difficult it was to understand even the most basic things in the beginning.

In my opinion, the junior trainer’s two most important tasks are to keep the juniors interested and to guide them towards good training material when they are ready. But in the beginning, the best training material is probably playing lots of games. The difficult thing is to understand when the juniors are ready for more.

b) the talent trainer

In this phase of the talent’s development the trainer is likely to still be a stronger player, at least for a part of the process. He is able to show the talent a lot of ideas and typical patterns, structures, combinations and so on. At the same time he will also be able to help the talent prepare for games, analyse his games with him and choose what books he needs to read, which types of exercises he should solve and so on.

This is the standard trainer you can find online.

c) the second

Once a player reaches a certain level he will start to play in tense competitive situations. This can be national championships, international championships or even matches.

I think most players over 2400 would benefit a lot from a second, but with the low amount of money in prizes at “normal” tournaments, only players at the top or participants in junior championships usually have access to a second.

Personally I have not played many tournaments since 2007 without a second. In only a few cases my second (for the last few years Nikos Ntirlis) has not been at the location with me, but assisted me over Skype from Greece.

The two jobs of a second are:

c1) to help the player choose a good opening and come up with some concrete suggestions and advice in that direction.

c2) to be on the player’s side. This is usually not fully understood by most people. Since we are flock animals, trying to do something on your own is usually doomed to fail. The only reason this works in chess tournaments is because everyone is doing it like this! In 2007 I won the British Championship (one shot – one kill) and no doubt benefitted greatly from John Shaw’s advice over the phone, especially for game five (against Nick Pert), and for Brian McClement serving dinner in the caravan for his son and me.

d) the grandmaster trainer

The final category is the one I have moved into over the last decade, by natural progression.

Read more…

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Bored to Death?

September 16th, 2013 50 comments


What can you do? Sometimes chess is just not interesting. – IM Yochanan Afek


IM Sam Collins had a question about “boring positions” and why he scores so poorly in them. He had read a blog post by a GM who used to be 2600, but has now dipped below 2500. This GM claimed that the loss of strength was to a great extent because he became bored in simple positions and lost them seemingly effortlessly. Sam felt he had the same problem and thus asked me if I could maybe have a look at a few of his games and explain why he lost these equal positions so reliably.


I certainly have limited talents in all directions (which is maybe a reason why I do not like the idea of talent a lot) but I do pride myself on having a reasonable bullshit-detector. Well, the red light was on high alert when I read this. Not what Sam said, but what the GM said.


Because what is boredom in chess? It is not a question of style or taste, as some would like to think. I have personally never heard that anyone found complicated tactical battles boring. Difficult, unpleasant and so on, yes, but boring, no.


The only boring things I have heard attached to chess (with the exception of studying opening theory or the game itself) are technical positions; especially those of a fixed symmetrical nature.


But why would some find these positions boring? Sure, I understand that these positions are not the most fascinating, but they certainly hold plenty of challenges, as Sam’s and other strong players’ record shows.


My theory is that things in general are boring when you look on their surface only. There are a few exceptions to this rule, of course, but in general being bored is (as I see it) a symptom of a lack of understanding.


I could expand this rule to a lot of things, but why not debate so-called tedious chess positions?


As I see it (we are really talking about a working theory here) the reason people find simple positions boring is because they frustrate them. They frustrate them because they are not able to see what is happening in them; mainly because they do not know what to look for. If you do not understand the positional and strategic goals you should be pursuing then you would get frustrated. Why your brain comes to the rescue and supplies you with the emotion of boredom, I do not know. I only know that the way to get past this is to learn to work your way through it. Here I find the three questions very useful – they were specifically constructed to deal with teaching problem-solving in positions where there is nothing to calculate, for players who approach all chess problems with calculation.


But let’s move from theory to practice so I can get on with my proper work!

Read more…

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Interesting video

September 12th, 2013 32 comments

Nikos pointed me towards this video on opening preparation by Anand. Not much new for me in it, but I assume most of you will find it absolutely fascinating.


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Different approaches to the same material

September 11th, 2013 No comments

When I sat down to write the Attacking Manual 1 the main goal for me was to make the book very readable. It later made me very happy when Slovakian GM Jan Markos (author of the underrated and generally excellent Beat the KID) said that he had read the book like if it had been a novel. This was exactly the flow I wanted to achieve; the focus being on recurring strategic themes, rather than on calculation.

This does not mean that the material could not have been used in a different way. Chess is a complex game and our minds are complex tools. Obviously they will offer different ways to achieve the same goals.

In his latest post on Mark Dvoretsky uses one of the positions from the book to look into calculation. His goal is quite different from mine and the end result is therefore quite different as well. Not better or worse, just different. To my relief the analysis I did six years ago have not been spanked by today’s much faster computers and Mark talks very nicely of my writing, which shows that he is a good friend, as well as awfully kind to youthful amateurs like myself.

If you at all feel inspired to do some heavy calculation, then you should check out his article here.

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