Archive for January, 2014

Chess-Related Job Opportunity in Glasgow

January 28th, 2014 7 comments

Quality Chess is in need of an assistant editor to work full time with our team in the centre of Glasgow.
The job will mainly be editing of chess books, but other publishing-related tasks will be part of the job. It is important to note that the main part of the job is to edit writing by non-native speakers into high-quality English.
You would be working with a highly qualified team: GMs Shaw, McNab and Aagaard, IM Greet and our (untitled) part-time bookkeeper.
Some on-the-job training will be available, but a decent understanding of chess is necessary (a rating over 2000, preferably more), good English and decent typing skills are essential. A basic ability to operate Word and ChessBase are expected as well.
Working hours are: 9.30-18.00 Monday-Thursday and 9.30-15.00 Friday.
Holidays and holiday pay according to the statutory minimums, but with the chance to take extra time off if needed. We are especially understanding of the need to play chess tournaments!
If you are interested, please contact our MD John Shaw on to get financial details and possibly set up an interview, in Glasgow or by Skype.
Closing date: 21st February

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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.

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

ChessCafe Book of the Year – Pump up your Rating

January 22nd, 2014 40 comments


Congratulations to Axel Smith! Pump up your Rating is the 2013 ChessCafe Book of the Year.

From the moment I read the first draft of the first chapter, I had high hopes for this book and I am delighted other readers are just as enthusiastic. As the book’s publishers we are of course biased, but I would say Axel is a highly deserving winner. He put a remarkable effort into writing his book and then trying to improve it. If you have not already read Pump up Your Rating (if so, why not?) then you can get a flavour of it from this pdf excerpt.

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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.

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

4NCL update

January 13th, 2014 6 comments


Once again all four of us went to Hinckley Island to play two games of chess in the Four Nations Chess League. Colin plays for White Rose, while Andrew manages the superb Wood Green 1 & 2, employing John and me. A selection of our annotated games are in this pgn link.

On the Saturday I had a very complicated game where I was guessing all the time. I expected the computer to laugh at me after the game, but the weirdest thing happened: It liked all of my moves. Sure, the rook sacrifice was second best, but still good enough to win. Meanwhile John won a nice game in the Slav, while Andrew lost a long game.

Colin drew both his games, including against our team (specifically Jon Speelman) on the Sunday.

Andrew drew on Sunday in a game where he was slightly better.

On Sunday John had a very interesting fighting game. Choosing to enter an endgame on move 10 he was slowly outplaying his opponent, until a weird blunder left him much much worse. He recovered only to blunder on move 41.

Black to play and win

[fen size=”small”]4r3/pp2P3/2k2B2/2Pb2p1/3R1pBp/4p1nP/PP4P1/6K1 b – – 0 41[/fen]
John’s opponent found the right move. John found a way to continue the game, but it was a “matter of technique”. Luckily his opponent’s technique was lacking and after more than six hours play, John secured half a point.

My game on the Sunday was quite interesting. It had a few moments of great interest (see the pgn file for a selection of games). But of course, as it is Monday, I have to come up with a few tips:

* There is a tendency to underestimate the importance of getting all the pieces into the game. See for example 16…Nf3+? and 18.Re1! in my game with Buckley.

* When your opponent is in time trouble, it is a good idea to give him an open choice. See for example 26.b4!? against Buckley. The move is prophylaxis and slightly difficult to handle. Because what should Black actually do in this position?

* When you are out of shape, don’t play sharp theoretical games. Focus on the basics (Sabino Brunello told me recently that whenever he does not feel on top, he will use the three questions repeatedly during the game to make sure he at least plays decently. And here I am telling people that using the questions during the game is overkill…)

Sabino by the way solved his problems easily in both his black games against Chinese opponents in Wijk aan Zee. Especially the first round game was a pleasure to see.


[Event “4NCL Division 1b”]

[Site “Hinckley Island ENG”]

[Date “2014.01.12”]

[Round “4.154”]

[White “Aagaard, Jacob”]

[Black “Buckley, Simon T”]

[Result “1-0”]


1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2 cxd4 6. exd4 O-O 7. a3 Be7 8. d5

d6 9. dxe6 fxe6 10. Nf4 Qa5 11. Qe2 Qf5 12. g3 g5 13. Bh3 g4 14. Bg2 Nc6 15.

Be3 Ne5 16. h3 Nf3+ 17. Kf1 Ne5 18. Re1 Ng6 19. hxg4 Qxg4 20. Bf3 Qf5 21. Nxg6

Qxg6 22. Kg2 e5 23. Rh6 Qg7 24. Rh4 Rf7 25. Reh1 Bf5 26. b4 h5 27. Bxb7 Raf8

28. Bf3 Ng4 29. Rxh5 e4 30. Rh8+ Qxh8 31. Rxh8+ Kxh8 32. Bxg4 Bg6 33. Nd5 1-0


[Event “4NCL”]

[Site “?”]

[Date “2014.01.11”]

[Round “3”]

[White “Sowray, Peter”]

[Black “Aagaard, Jacob”]

[Result “0-1”]


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Bg5 h6 4. Bh4 b6 5. Nc3 Bb7 6. f3 Be7 7. Bg3 d5 8. cxd5

exd5 9. e3 O-O 10. Bd3 c5 11. Nge2 Bd6 12. Bf2 Re8 13. O-O Na6 14. g4 Nc7 15.

Kg2 c4 16. Bc2 b5 17. Ng3 Bc8 18. Qd2 a5 19. Rad1 a4 20. h4 Nxg4 21. fxg4 Bxg4

22. Nge2 b4 23. Nxa4 Qd7 24. Bg3 Bxg3 25. Kxg3 Bh5 26. Rf5 Bg6 27. Nc5 Qd6+ 28.

Kh3 Bxf5+ 29. Bxf5 Rxa2 30. Nf4 Rxb2 31. Qxb2 Rxe3+ 32. Kg4 Ne8 33. Nd7 g6 34.

Rg1 Ng7 35. h5 0-1


[Event “4NCL Division 1b”]

[Site “Hinckley Island ENG”]

[Date “2014.01.12”]

[Round “4.153”]

[White “McNab, Colin A”]

[Black “Speelman, Jon S”]

[Result “1/2-1/2”]


1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. b3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Bb2 b6 7. O-O Bb7 8. e3

Nbd7 9. Nc3 a6 10. Rc1 Bd6 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Ne2 Re8 13. Nf4 Ra7 14. d4 a5 15.

Qc2 a4 16. Ne5 Qa8 17. Nc6 axb3 18. axb3 Ra2 19. Nd3 Ba6 20. Ncb4 Bxb4 1/2-1/2


[Event “4NCL 2013-14”]

[Site “Hinckley Island”]

[Date “2014.01.12”]

[Round “?”]

[White “Paehtz, Elizabeth”]

[Black “Greet, Andrew”]

[Result “1/2-1/2”]


1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Nf3 h6 8. a4

O-O 9. Bd3 b6 10. Be3 Nf5 11. Bxf5 cxd4 12. Nxd4 exf5 13. Qf3 Qc7 14. O-O Nc6

15. Nxc6 Qxc6 16. Bd4 Ba6 17. Rfe1 Qe6 18. Qe3 Bc4 19. Qc1 Rfb8 20. Qa3 a5 21.

Reb1 b5 22. axb5 Rxb5 23. Rxb5 Bxb5 24. Rb1 Qc6 25. h4 Kh7 26. Re1 Qe6 27. Rb1

Qc6 28. Re1 Qe6 1/2-1/2


[Event “4NCL 2013-14”]

[Site “Hinckley Island”]

[Date “2014.01.11”]

[Round “?”]

[White “Greet, Andrew”]

[Black “Tan, Justin”]

[Result “0-1”]


1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. Qb3 Qb6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Nh4 Bh5 8. h3 g5

9. Nf3 h6 10. Ne5 Nfd7 11. Nd3 Be7 12. h4 gxh4 13. c5 Qc7 14. e4 Bg5 15. f4 Be7

16. Be3 Bg4 17. Nf2 h5 18. f5 b6 19. cxb6 Nxb6 20. Nxg4 hxg4 21. Qc2 Qg3+ 22.

Bf2 Qf4 23. fxe6 fxe6 24. Bd3 g3 25. Bg1 Bg5 26. Qe2 N8d7 27. Kd1 Rf8 28. Kc2

O-O-O 29. Re1 Nf6 30. exd5 Nfxd5 31. a3 Rfe8 32. Ne4 Be7 33. Nc5 Bxc5 34. dxc5

Qa4+ 35. Kc1 Nd7 36. Qe4 Qa5 37. Rxh4 0-1


[Event “4NCL Division 1b”]

[Site “Hinckley Island ENG”]

[Date “2014.01.11”]

[Round “3.156”]

[White “Eden, Tomer”]

[Black “Shaw, John K”]

[Result “0-1”]


1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Qc2 dxc4 5. e4 b5 6. b3 cxb3 7. axb3 e6 8. Bd2

a5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. O-O Be7 11. Rc1 h6 12. Nc3 Na6 13. e5 Nb4 14. exf6 Nxc2 15.

fxe7 Qxe7 16. Rxc2 O-O 17. Ne4 c5 18. dxc5 Rfd8 19. Nd6 Bxf3 20. gxf3 Qf6 21.

Rac1 Qxf3 22. Be4 Qg4+ 23. Kh1 Ra7 24. f3 Qh3 25. Nxb5 Rad7 26. Nd6 f5 27. Bc6

Rxd6 28. cxd6 Rxd6 29. Bxa5 Rxc6 30. Rxc6 Qxf3+ 31. Kg1 Qe3+ 32. Kf1 Qxb3 33.

Bc7 Qf3+ 34. Kg1 Qe3+ 35. Kh1 e5 36. Bb6 Qf3+ 37. Kg1 Qg4+ 38. Kh1 f4 39. R6c2

Qe6 40. Bf2 e4 41. Be3 fxe3 42. Re1 Kf7 43. Rce2 Kf6 44. Rxe3 Kf5 45. Kg2 Kf4

46. R1e2 Qd5 47. h3 Qg5+ 48. Kf1 Qg6 49. Kf2 Qb6 0-1


[Event “4NCL Division 1b”]

[Site “Hinckley Island ENG”]

[Date “2014.01.12”]

[Round “4.156”]

[White “Shaw, John K”]

[Black “Townsend, M Paul”]

[Result “1/2-1/2”]


1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nf6 8.

Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Nxd4 Bd7 12. Be2 O-O-O 13. c4 e5 14.

Nb3 Kb8 15. f4 e4 16. h3 h5 17. Be3 h4 18. Rad1 Be7 19. Kf2 Nh5 20. Nc5 Bc6 21.

Rxd8+ Bxd8 22. Rd1 Ng3 23. Nd7+ Kc8 24. Ne5 Be8 25. Rd2 f6 26. Bg4+ f5 27. Bd1

g5 28. c5 Bc7 29. Kg1 Bxe5 30. fxe5 f4 31. Bg4+ Kc7 32. Bd4 e3 33. Rc2 Bg6 34.

e6 Rd8 35. Be5+ Kc6 36. Bf3+ Be4 37. Bf6 Re8 38. e7 Kd7 39. Bg4+ Kc6 40. Rc4

Bd5 41. Rd4 f3 42. gxf3 Ne2+ 43. Kf1 Nxd4 44. Bxd4 Rxe7 45. b3 e2+ 46. Ke1 Be6

47. Bf6 Re8 48. Bxg5 Bxg4 49. fxg4 Kxc5 50. Bxh4 Kb4 51. Bf6 Re4 52. g5 Rh4 53.

g6 Rxh3 54. g7 Rg3 55. Kxe2 Ka3 56. Kf2 Rg6 57. Ke3 Kxa2 58. Ke4 Kxb3 59. Kf5

Rxg7 60. Bxg7 b5 61. Ke4 a5 62. Kd5 a4 63. Kc5 b4 64. Kb5 a3 65. Bf6 a2 66. Ba1

Ka3 67. Kc4 b3 1/2-1/2


[Event “Tata Steel Challengers”]

[Site “Wijk aan Zee NED”]

[Date “2014.01.11”]

[Round “1”]

[White “Yu Yangyi”]

[Black “Brunello, S.”]

[Result “0-1”]


1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Ne7 6. O-O c5 7. c3 Nec6 8. a3 Nd7

9. b4 cxd4 10. cxd4 Rc8 11. Bb2 Be7 12. Nbd2 O-O 13. Rc1 Nb6 14. Bc3 Rc7 15.

Qb3 Qd7 16. Bb2 Rfc8 17. Rc3 a6 18. Rfc1 Na7 19. Bd1 Rxc3 20. Rxc3 Rxc3 21.

Bxc3 Qc6 22. h3 Nb5 23. Bb2 Nc4 24. Be2 Nxb2 25. Qxb2 Nc3 26. Nb3 Nxe2+ 27.

Qxe2 Qc3 28. Qe3 Qxe3 29. fxe3 b6 30. Ne1 Kf8 31. Kf2 Ke8 32. Ke2 Kd7 33. Kd2

Kc6 34. Nd3 Kb5 35. Nb2 a5 36. bxa5 bxa5 37. Nc5 Bxc5 38. dxc5 Kxc5 39. Kc3 f6

40. exf6 gxf6 41. h4 e5 42. Na4+ Kd6 43. Nb2 Bd7 44. Nd3 Bb5 45. Nf2 Ke6 46. g3

Kf5 47. Kc2 Kg6 48. Kd2 Kh5 49. Kc2 f5 50. Kc3 f4 51. exf4 exf4 52. gxf4 Kxh4

53. Nd1 Kg4 54. Ne3+ Kxf4 55. Nxd5+ Ke5 56. Ne3 h5 57. Kd2 Kf4 58. Nd5+ Kf3 59.

Nc7 Bc4 60. Kc3 h4 0-1


[Event “Tata Steel Challengers”]

[Site “Wijk aan Zee NED”]

[Date “2014.01.12”]

[Round “2”]

[White “Zhao Xue”]

[Black “Brunello, S.”]

[Result “1/2-1/2”]


1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. g3 dxc4 6. Bg2 b5 7. O-O Nbd7 8. Ne5

Nxe5 9. dxe5 Qxd1 10. Rxd1 Nd5 11. a4 b4 12. Ne4 a5 13. Be3 Nxe3 14. fxe3 Ra7

15. Rac1 Ba6 16. Kf2 c5 17. Nd2 Rc7 18. Ne4 Ra7 19. Nd2 Rc7 20. Ne4 1/2-1/2


ChessCafe book of the Year award 2013

January 8th, 2014 21 comments
There are a number of different awards in chess, ECF, ACP, Boleslavsky and the Guardian are all decided by a group of selected people (though the ACP group is rather big!). The award is special as it is open for anyone to vote for.

This year Quality Chess has two candidates on the three book short list. John’s King’s Gambit book and Axel Smith’s Pump up your Rating. In case anyone is wondering, we are all going to vote for Axel. We support our authors as much as we can – and his book is pretty awesome!

Categories: Authors in Action, Prizes Tags:

Systems are better than goals

January 6th, 2014 23 comments


During the London Chess Classic I was blessed by the occasional company of one of my favourite people in the whole world, my former student Sabino Brunello. Sabino had gone to London with the hope of qualifying for the Super-16, but as things turned out, even the magical 4/4 would not have been enough.

One of the things we talked about is the foreword for my Thinking Inside the Box, which Sabino has promised to write. I assured him that I would write the book before becoming pushy about it, and tried to give him some hints about what I would like him to write about.

To me, the most memorable incident from the six years we worked together was when Sabino told me that he would never be 2600. I am not sure if he was 19 or 20; something like this. One or two years later he was performing out of this world at the 2011 European Team Championship; his team captain Artur Kogan was calling him ‘Messi’, explaining that the others would just defend, leaving Sabino to secure the 1-0 (or 2.5-1.5 if you like) victory. After winning the decisive game in the last round, Sabino met Shirov in the lift. Being just a few points from 2600, Sabino was finally believing it was possible. What Shirov said threw him: “So Sabino, next stop 2700?!”

This Christmas I have finally come across a succinct description of something I have felt for a while. “Goals are for losers, systems are for winners.”

While the rest of the family has been building Lego City, Lego Friends and trashing the furniture, I have been reading Scott Adams’ book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” subtitled “Sort of the Story of my Life.” I got the book because of an email with a suggestion for a possible post on exactly this topic and I have to say that I am very glad I did. Thank you.

Let us get the review out of the way first:

Read more…

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags: