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The difficulty of being Black

December 29th, 2013 57 comments

In a recent review of Nikos’s and my book Playing the French (on ChessVibes and Chess.com), the reviewer Arne Moll expresses some doubt about our understanding of practical chess. You can read the review if you are interested in the detail of the argument and in my reply (given below). But I wanted to give a little thought to the difficulty of being Black in general.

As most of you will have noticed, playing an inferior position is perilous. A mistake in a slightly better position can be annoying, but a mistake in an inferior position can land you in trouble you cannot solve. I will write more about this in the near future, but for now let us just continue as if this hypothesis is indeed a fact.

When you are Black your games will in general fall into two categories. Either your opponents will play sidelines or mainlines. This leads to two different challenges.

Mainlines have a tendency to lead to positions where accuracy is important. New ideas will exist in most positions, but mainlines are popular because of the pressure they put on Black (and Black’s success in neutralizing it). For this reason we often need a lot of theoretical knowledge to defend the black side. It is either this or risk your life in variations where you are worse and the problems you have to solve are harder to solve (because deciding between two inferior positions is harder than deciding between a decent and an inferior position).

Sidelines tend to offer you a number of decent options, all of them leading to decent positions. Unless White has played something problematic, he will not be worse either. In such situations exact knowledge usually decreases in value. Unless we play correspondence chess, it is almost impossible to anticipate what sidelines you will face in your next few tournaments, so extensive knowledge has a tendency to be overkill. Working on your problem solving abilities will be more likely to help you once you end in a respectable sideline.

This is the approach Nikos and I chose for our book. This is the philosophy behind it. It is absolutely up for debate, but our approach is not random.

For the full review of Playing the French, go to: review

Reading this review, I felt it was one long question, asking: why did they offer this line? This post below is my answer, not meant as a criticism of the reviewer. Read more…

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Christmas Day

December 25th, 2013 46 comments

This is absolutely astonishing. Black wins in a really beautiful way. Very, very hard to find. I mean very hard. Let’s take the solution in the new year!

Thank you all for playing along!

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Christmas Eve

December 24th, 2013 3 comments

In some countries the presents are opened on Christmas Eve, in others 1-2 days later. Luckily every day is Christmas here on the QC blog. Now back to work Colin, Andrew and you, Mr Bob Cratchit!

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23rd December

December 23rd, 2013 6 comments

More candidates. Imagination is necessary to enjoy Christmas, after we did the hard work on the endings. White to play and make Black’s life entirely miserable.

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22nd December

December 22nd, 2013 2 comments

Behind this door we find a very promising position. But pay attention!

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21st December

December 21st, 2013 6 comments

Sometimes it is Christmas in January and sometimes not. I feel for Adam Hunt who failed to crown a decent chess career with a victory against a World Champion…

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20th December

December 20th, 2013 21 comments

With one student rated about 2600 I recently had a session where he had failed to solve a lot of his homework. When I asked him the three questions, he would then almost instantly solve half of the positions he had previously failed to solve . Obviously he had the advantage of having spent time working on them already, but it still shows that when you are stuck, making a simple analysis about what is important in the position, just to aim your mind in the right direction, can be extremely useful.

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Save money on Christmas Presents: here is what you want in the first months of 2014

December 19th, 2013 184 comments

A quick updated publishing schedule for Winter/Spring 2014. There are a lot of projects down the road that have not been forgotten. Kotronias has worked a lot on the KID and we hope a Mar Del Plata book will be ready late spring, but who knows. It is a big project. Also, GM6A and GM6B will happen. We have dates and material ready for working on it. We have long term plans for books on the Nimzo and QID, but again, long term has not been a stable experience for us.As always, this is the intentions; reality might be very different. Who knows :-).

Boris Avrukh GM Repertoire 17 – Classical Slav January/February
Danny Gormally Mating the Castled King February/March
Jacob Aagaard Grandmaster Preparation – Endgame Play February/March
Tibor Karolyi Mikhail Tal’s best games 1 – The Magic of Youth February/March
Tiger Hillarp-Persson The Modern Tiger February/March
Emanuel Berg Grandmaster Repertoire 16 – The French Defence Vol 3 Winter
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – A Grandmaster Guide – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines Winter
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – A Grandmaster Guide – Sicilian & French Spring
Jacob Aagaard Grandmaster Preparation – Thinking Inside the Box Spring/Summer
Tibor Karolyi Mikhail Tal’s best games 2 – World Champion Spring
Vassilios Kotronias GM Repertoire 18 – Sveshnikov Spring
xxx Grandmaster Repertoire 21 – 1.e4 French, Caro-Kann & Philidor Spring
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