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Fortresses!

March 31st, 2014 13 comments

Tomorrow morning we will have a final look at Endgame Play before sending it away to the printer. I am physically and emotionally exhausted to a degree I have not felt since the mid-1990s – where I somehow still thought that consuming a lot of alcohol was a fun way to waste your life away. This time I have also gained a few kilos, but I have something to show for it!

I do not want to relate Endgame Play to other endgame books. It is the endgame seen through the prism of the Grandmaster Preparation series, where only one book will have a different style: Thinking Inside the Box, which is meant to be the underlying theoretical book. There are more exercises than usual in EP and I think some of the chess is really nice, but this will be up to others to decide.

The most interesting chapter in the book is probably the one on fortresses. Mainly because I do not know of any real good material about fortresses. I looked In Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual and I did not feel it made me much wiser on this topic. Maybe someone else has written excellently about fortresses; I am just not aware of it (nor am I saying that I have done so – I just say that I have tried to make a few observations about fortresses as a strategy).

While finishing the book I came across the following fortresses. They should all be draws.

[fen size=”small”]8/4k3/8/5PK1/6p1/8/4b1P1/8 w – – 0 1[/fen]

[fen size=”small”]8/2k5/6p1/1PP2p1p/3KpP1P/8/6P1/8 w – – 0 1[/fen]

[fen size=”small”]Q7/8/8/5K2/8/8/5b1p/6k1 w – – 0 1[/fen]

[fen size=”small”]8/3BP3/4K3/8/8/6q1/5k2/8 b – – 0 97[/fen]

The last one I did not put in the book. It is well-known for many, but it was still lurking around in the databases associated with the book right till the end.

Zhou, Yang-Fan – Jack Rudd, London 2012
[fen size=”small”]8/8/p7/Pb6/1P1k4/8/2K5/8 w – – 0 61[/fen]

White could have drawn with: 62. Kd2! Bd3 63. Kd1 Kc3 64. Ke1!, where the white king both avoids being forced into zugzwang and stays close enough to rush for a1 when Black takes on a5. Black can take the pawn on b4 and prevent the white king from making it to a1, but in that case the stalemate of the king will actually be stalemate and not force White to play b4-b5.

In the game White did not know about this idea it seems:
62. Kb2? Kd3 63. Kb3 Bc4+ 64. Kb2 Kd2 65. Kb1 Kc3 66. Kc1
8/8/p7/P7/1Pb5/2k5/8/2K5 b – – 0 66[/fen]
66…Be2!
66… Bd3 67. Kd1!
67. Kb1 Bd3+ 68. Ka2
68. Kc1 Bc2!
68… Bc2 69. Ka1
69. Ka3 Bb3 70. b5 axb5 71. a6 b4#
69… Kb3 70. b5 axb5 71. a6 Be4 72. a7 b4
0-1

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

ACP award – Part II, the decision

March 31st, 2014 4 comments

I am very flattered by the support for Strategic Play. We were not really in doubt that Pump Up Your Rating would get a lot of support, but which book that should accompany it in the vote was by no means clear. It seems that no one cared that Calculation won the ACP award last year. Personally that would make me pick a different book and we might still do this. We will decide it on the editorial meeting tomorrow. This would not be unfair in this particular case, as the author can ask his publisher not to nominate his book for the prize. I will basically leave it in the hands of the editors.

Categories: Polls Tags:

Progress

March 28th, 2014 13 comments

I am dead. Or at least close to. Still working on Endgame Play (Friday night 22.16), which we want to send to the printer Monday. If this happens, we will most likely make the triple publication on April the 30th.

There are still a few additions to put in. Karsten Mueller have been exceptionally helpful and forced me to push myself as far as I probably can. He wrote the following very flattering foreword, which is all I can give you now. Excepts up next week.Foreword by GM Dr Karsten Müller

Solve your endgame problems with Endgame Play!

Every chess player faces the problem of how to study the endgame. Three possible approaches are to ignore the endgame completely, or to read a theoretical manual like Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, or to watch videos or DVDs. In my opinion the first option is completely out of the question, as studying the endgame will repay high dividends because your understanding of the whole game and the capabilities of every single piece will improve dramatically. The knowledge gained will remain valid forever and will not become outdated like opening analysis. I recommend the other two options of course. But they are not the complete answer. They are only the first step.

It is not enough to have read a solution in a book or seen it in a video clip. You can only do it, when you can do it. For example, to mate with bishop and knight against a lone king, you must be able to master it over the board with the clock ticking, and not by guessing moves while watching a video clip.

Solving exercises is the second step on the road to endgame mastery and this is Aagaard’s approach in his excellent Endgame Play. The third step is to play endgames well over the board under tournament conditions. Only then are you really mastering the endgame.

So I strongly believe in training by solving exercises and Jacob Aagaard is a real master here. I often train my own students using the books from his Grandmaster Preparation series, and they really help on the way to becoming an International Master or hopefully even a Grandmaster.

Sometimes I challenge my students to a solving competition but one other method I use is for me to play on the weak side of the exercises, so that my students not only have to find the right solution but can also beat me afterwards, just like in a real tournament game. Again, the best way to train is to work under tournament conditions. If you do not have a grandmaster on hand, you can of course play on the winning side against a computer program – that is, if you really want to train the hard way.

Aagaard always selects many fresh and challenging examples, and in Endgame Play he also manages to present fascinating positions which I had not seen before – and I have seen many endgames as this has been my main occupation for years.

Endgame study has two faces – theoretical endings sorted by material, and strategical endgames sorted by motifs. Jacob Aagaard deals with both in great depth and focuses on the practical questions. He uses pawn endings to train the calculation of long variations and visualization. He investigates minor piece endings to illustrate the capabilities of the bishop and knight and their limitations, which is very important for every phase of the royal game.

Aagaard’s treatment of opposite-coloured bishop endings, which have a very special nature almost like a new game within chess, is very deep and he also looks at positions with more pieces, where the guideline from the middlegame comes to the forefront – opposite-coloured bishops favour the attacker and, unlike pure opposite-coloured bishop endings, have no strong drawish tendencies.

Then come rook endings, endings with queens, and endings with rook and bishop to complete the discussion of theoretical endings. I want to stress the presence of many endings with rook and bishop against rook and bishop. They are very important for the practical player, but are generally underrepresented in the literature.

Regarding strategical endings, Aagaard divides the material into the following categories: schematic thinking, weaknesses, domination, do not hurry, passed pawns, pawns in the endgame, freaky aspects including zugzwang, stalemate, fortresses and attack on the king.

Here Aagaard gives a good overview and again the proof of the pudding is in the eating: you should try really hard to solve the exercises. Only in this way will you gain a deeper understanding of the real meaning of the principles and guidelines and their exceptions. The real art of the royal game is not to know the guidelines by heart and repeat them every morning three times in front of the mirror. The real art is to develop an intuitive feeling for the exceptions and to be able to calculate and visualize variations well.

Especially impressive is Aagaard’s deep insight into the nature of fortresses and the way he deals with the very important rook endgames, where it is always difficult not to be too dry and technical but also not too complicated. He strikes this balance just right and also looks at all aspects of the endgame which are relevant for the practical player. No sophisticated studies – just the sort of questions you will have to deal with over the board.

With Endgame Play Jacob Aagaard has again proved convincingly that he is indeed one of the best chess authors of modern times.

GM Dr Karsten Müller
Hamburg, March 2014

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ACP Book of the Year Award – We need your advice!

March 26th, 2014 46 comments

We have just received the invitation to the ACP award. As usual each publisher is allowed to put forward two books for consideration by the members of the Association of Chess Professionals.

Last year the prize was won by yours truly with Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation one (1!) vote ahead of Judit Polgar’s How I Beat Fischer’s Record. If John and I had voted, Judit would have won, but as “consolidation” she won the prestigious ECF Book of the Year Award later in the year.

On the side I have included some of our best non-opening book titles from the last year. Which one do you think we should put forward?

Here is the result of the last poll.

Categories: Polls Tags:

The Classical Slav – covering the missing line

March 24th, 2014 5 comments

As I mentioned in a previous post, we failed to cover a line of the Exchange Variation in The Classical Slav. If you click on the following pdf link, you will find analysis by GM Boris Avrukh which fills the gap.

We shall also include this update in pgn form in our next newsletter. This is our standard policy when we spot errors and omissions, perhaps especially in repertoire books – mention the problem and make the solution freely and widely available.

Categories: GM Repertoire Tags:

Grandmaster Repertoire and Grandmaster Guide – two different concepts

March 24th, 2014 39 comments

In New in Chess 2/2014, which finally popped through the door today, there is a longer review of Playing the French, as well as a glowing review of From GM to Top 10 by Judit Polgar (which in my opinion is a good deal better than the ECF book of the year winning predecessor; which obviously is quite great too!).

To get a positive review from such a great player (and reader) as Matthew Sadler is always a great moment for any writer. Especially Nikos and I are happy that he did not manage to put a dent in my weird 12…h6 in the French Tarrasch (which was played once before, so we do not call it a novelty, don’t worry):

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. Nxd4 a6 11. Re1 Qc7 12. Qe2 h6!!
[fen size=”small”]r1b1kb1r/1pq2pp1/p3pn1p/8/2BN4/8/PPP1QPPP/R1B1R1K1 w kq – 0 13[/fen]

Like me, Sadler is enthrolled and disgusted with this move at once. Surely White should be able to refute it with active play? But the problem is that the bishop on c1 lacks an active outpost. Sadler does not manage to find anything after 13.b3 or 13.Bd2.

Sadler is very positive, but prefers out previous book together, Grandmaster Repertoire 10 – The Tarrasch Defence. He specifically mentions what is probably the highlight of that book, Nikos’ discovery in the 11…h6-variation:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 c4 10. Ne5 Be6 11. b3 h6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. bxc4 dxc4 15. e3 Qa5 16. Qc2 c5!!
[fen size=”small”]r4rk1/p4pp1/4bb1p/q1p5/2pP4/2N1P1P1/P1Q2PBP/R4RK1 w – – 0 17[/fen]

There we had 10 pages of analysis, proving the validity of the variation (which I famously never memorised properly…).

This leads us to the point of this post. Basically we are talking about liking one concept over the other (though Sadler has 1-2 points of criticism that seems very valid). In the Grandmaster Repertoire series we seek to present the reader with an in-depth, deeply analysed and detailed repertoire. In the Grandmaster Guide we aim differently; to give some essential information, with the understanding that many people will prefer something that is easy to take in, because they have those weird things called jobs that eat away the time they should be spending on learning the ins and outs of the French Defence. It is especially poignant that Sadler comes with this reflection in this opening, as the Emanuel Berg 3-volume series exists in the same territory 8-). I personally share Sadler’s taste, but this does not mean that I think it is the only way to do things. I know some of you ask quite focussed questions, based on a clear understanding of what we are trying to do with these two concepts, but maybe we need to make it a bit clearer about what we are trying to do at times.

Anyway, we are very pleased and humbled by the fact that Sadler found our book interesting enough to both review and to scrutinize to the degree he did. Simply put: it is an honour.

Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags:

The Dauton/Steckner Position

March 24th, 2014 21 comments

Those who obsess about these things will know the famous Steckner idea in this theoretical endgame position:

[fen size=”small”]8/R4p2/P4kp1/7p/7P/4K1P1/r4P2/8 w – – 0 1[/fen]

Here endgame theory was revolutionised by Steckner’s discovery that after 1.Kd4 Rxf2 2.Rc7 Ra2 3.a7 Kf5 White plays the brilliant 4.Kc4!!

[fen size=”small”]8/P1R2p2/6p1/5k1p/2K4P/6P1/r7/8 b – – 0 4[/fen]

The idea is that 4…Kg4 5.Kb3! leads to a win for White.

In Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual version 4 from 2011 (and later on Forward Chess) 1…Rxf2 is the only move mentioned and it is believed that White is winning. However, a very complicated draw was found by Poghosyan starting with 1…g5 2.Kd5 g4. See here for the details (and there is a lot of them).

Looking at this position recently I think I found a simple way to draw:

[fen size=”small”]8/R4p2/P4k2/3K2pp/7P/6P1/r4P2/8 b – – 0 2[/fen]

2…Kg6!? with the idea …f6, …Kf5 and counterplay. I cannot see how White can improve his position. Are there anyone who has an opinion on such things? Maybe there is a chance to analyse it a bit deeper?

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

Carlsen not too safe!?

March 21st, 2014 28 comments

I am surprised by this poll. Carlsen has looked incredibly strong and determined, while the players in the candidates are all showing their “human” sides. Anand today looked not very good for the first time, but I am not sure people were thinking he would have a big chance in a rematch. A question is if he would even enjoy one…

Categories: Polls Tags: