Archive for June, 2014

Grandmaster Q&A Part 1

June 30th, 2014 58 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general he needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking about quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts that will come over the summer.

1a) In case I am working alone what should be the most effective training method?

Obviously I can only give an opinion, not a definite answer to this question. I think an important point is to refer to a previous blog post, where I clearly state my belief that there are many ways to do just about everything.

But this does not mean that there are not a few ways of training that you can do on your own that have a proven track record.

a) Analyse your own games (and those of others)

Not all grandmasters use this method, but quite a lot do and owe a considerable amount of their success to doing this. Here it is important to understand the difference between turning on the engines and looking at their recommendations, and then going through the game thoroughly, questioning everything and trying to understand the difference between the moves played and the alternatives, as well as to determine the accuracy of what you were thinking during the game and the reason behind the mistakes you made.

b) Solve exercises

At the board you are trying to think. If you do not train your thinking at home, you will be like someone who never runs and enters a 10k race, only to find that it is tough going. He might complete it, but he will certainly walk a lot of the way…

c) Improve your openings

This works to some extent. It is easier playing good positions than to defend. And if you have good openings, you will get to play good positions most of the time. It is intentionally only third on the list, as the two other methods not only lead to better results in my estimation, they also have longevity that opening preparation does not have. Still, if you are already doing the other things, this does help.

d) Study the endgame

With a World Champion such as Magnus Carlsen there is no reason to put this after opening preparation on the list; and this is also not a question of priority. But understanding the endgame and remembering some of the main theoretical positions will definitely improve your game. If you want to combine this with b) I know a good source: Grandmaster Preparation – Endgame Play by yours truly. Read more…

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

A few titles coming

June 23rd, 2014 161 comments

We will publish paperback editions of Attack&Defence and Endgame Play in my Grandmaster Preparation series on Wednesday next week.

We will print a German edition of the first volume in the Judit Polgar Teaches Chess series as soon as we get the cover fixed. This is harder than it should be, but hopefully it will work out soon.

Finally, I am happy to announce what I am working on at the moment. I am helping a good friend write a book on the way he understands chess. And boy does he understand chess:


We have written some of the chapters already and have the raw material for all but the last chapter. I am very very happy with it. Actually, I am ecstatic. I hope you guys will support this project too.


Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags:

When to calculate – Different tools for different jobs

June 23rd, 2014 16 comments

I was asked again about when you should calculate and when you should trust your intuition. It is one of the big recurring problems of chess techniques and rightly so.

The Law of the Instrument as first phrased by Abraham Maslow goes like this: “The man with a hammer views every problem as a nail” (though Maslow said it less poetically). The relevance to chess is that we have different ways of thinking about a position and it is highly valuable to be able to shift between them, based on the demands of the position.

In some positions we do not really have to think. We need to recapture – or we already know what to play, because we spent last night studying the variation into the early hours. In these positions all we need to do is to ensure ourselves that this is indeed the case. Or said in another way:

The first thing we need to do is to establish if we have a choice

The next thing (baring that there is indeed a choice, without which it makes no sense not to just make a move immediately), the usual thing to do is to check the basic tactics in the position. We also call this for a candidate sweep.

Take this position:

Le Quang Liem – Svidler, Tromso World Cup 2013


White to play

 It seems that there is not really a big choice, but once we look for a few seconds, we can see that there is indeed a choice and that one of them is vastly superior to the other.

After we have checked for candidates it makes sense to try to understand what our goals should be in the position. Are they short term or long term? Are they dynamic or static? Are they offensive or defensive?

In most cases the way to solve the problems we have in the position will be by gradually improving our position. But in some cases our opponent’s scope for improving his position is greater than ours (by my estimate about half the time, in case anyone was wondering) and it makes sense to consider choosing to change the nature of the game. This might not necessarily be possible, but it is something we might want to pay attention to.

Or we might want to pay attention to how our opponent would want to change the nature of the game.

I could go on – but so far I have actually not talked about calculation yet and this is sort of my point. It is an important tool. Very important. Yusupov once plucked the number 30% out of thin air as an estimate to how important it might be for the professional player.

Now some guys are calculating everything. You can recognise them easily, as they are always deeply frustrated with “boring” positions. Positions where there is nothing to calculate. This does not mean that there is nothing going on. It just means that the hammer is useless. It is time for the screw driver, the spanner or the plaster…

If this is you, I strongly recommend the 3Q method. You can find many posts about it on this blog under my training tips or you can go to the source and read Grandmaster Preparation – Positional Play.

And if you are the one hoping for a clear algorithm for when to calculate, I am sorry. Chess is too complicated for that. There are simple ways to approach things, but they will always be models. They are not the territory.

The Solution

Le Quang Liem took on d5 with the pawn and the game was soon agreed a draw. He could have secured a winning advantage with 23.Rxd5! based on 23…Rxd5 24.e6+! and White wins.

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

A bit behind – Big books coming

June 21st, 2014 105 comments

Once again we have fallen a bit behind our schedule. The reason is quite simple: We have a number of big books coming. Grandmaster Repertoire 1.e4 will be about 600 pages (dealing with such big openings as the Caro-Kann, French and Philidor) and the Sveshnikov will be about 500 pages. Also, John is struggling his way through Playing 1.e4, but has had to take a few weeks off, editing Judit’s final installment in her award winning trilogy. Finally, we will all be at the Olympiad this year, so a few weeks of the summer are “lost” in this way as well…

And no, I am not saying who Mr X is. I want the book to be further along first; but so far I am very happy with the material.

We have more books coming down the list. For example: Thinking Inside the Box is delayed til August 2015. I just needed a break from this series. Endgame Play was too difficult.

Finally, we are planning to release Attack & Defence and Endgame Play in paperback somewhere this summer. The final decision on this will be made on Monday at the editorial. And then there will be 1-2 surprises or changes along the way of course.

As always, this is a view into what we are hoping and not an official publishing schedule! I am certain about the first six books on the list; everything thereafter might change and change greatly!

Esben Lund The Secret Life of Bad Bishops 28 July
Parimarjan Negi GM 1.e4 French, Caro-Kann & Philidor Olympiad
Vassilios Kotronias GM 18 – The Sicilian Sveshnikov Olympiad
Ilya Maizelis Chess from Scratch August/September
Judit Polgar A Game of Queens August/September
Tiger Hillarp-Persson The Modern Tiger September
Emanuel Berg GM 16 – The French Defence Vol 3 Autumn
John Shaw Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines Autumn
Mr X Positional Decision Making in Chess Autumn
Mauricio Flores Rios Chess Structures – A GM Guide Autumn
Ftacnik (Aagaard) GM6B – The Najdorf Winter
Victor Mikhalevski GM 19 – Beating Minor Openings Autumn
Lars Schandorff GM 20 – Semi-Slav Autumn
Mihail Marin Learn from the Legends – Hardback November
Wojciech Moranda Race up the Rankings Winter
Vassilios Kotronias KID – Vol 2 – Mar del Plata I Winter
Vassilios Kotronias KID – Vol 3 – Mar del Plata II Winter



Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags:

The experiment III

June 19th, 2014 31 comments

Just a small update (as promised). Since I finished the juice diet, I have had a stable weight of around 90.5 kg. I started at 97.3kg as you might remember and ended the 28 day juice fast on 88.6 kg. The two kilogram I lost in the first two days came back in five (filling up intestines?!), but none of the remaining weight has come back. The graph shows this clearly.

I have not pigged out, though I did eat a lot today. Actually I have eaten a lot like before, just without the extra junk that made me gain a lot of weight in the spring.

I plan to do it again sometime in the autumn. Not to lose weight so much as because it was really good for my confidence and for my energy levels.

Jacobs weight after juice diet

I promise this is the end of this. Back to chess…

Categories: Authors in Action Tags:

Whitsun Grandmasters

The winner of the Whitsun Grandmasters tournament in Copenhagen was Bulgarian GM Krasimir Rusev with 6½/9 .

Two Quality Chess authors took part: Axel Smith scored 50% in the GM-group, while Silas (Esben) Lund won the IM-group with 6/9.

Quality Chess sponsored a “Game of the Round” prize and a selection of the winning games can be played through below.

[pgn][Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.03”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Rusev, Krasimir”]
[Black “Brynell, Stellan”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A05”]
[WhiteElo “2540”]
[BlackElo “2463”]
[Annotator “Schou-Moldt,Thomas”]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. b3 O-O 7. Bb2 d5 8. e3
Nbd7 9. Qe2 a5 10. Nc3 a4 11. Nxa4 $1 dxc4 12. Qxc4 {With this strong
positional exchange sacrifice, Rusev takes full control of the white squares}
Ba6 13. Qc2 Bxf1 14. Rxf1 c5 15. Ne5 Rc8 $6 {Black was better off giving back
the exchange immidiately. Now the white bishop on g2 becomes a monster and the
knights becomes very dominating} (15… Nxe5 16. Bxa8 Qxa8 17. Bxe5 Nd7 18. Ba1
b5 19. Nc3 Ne5 $11) 16. Nc6 Qe8 17. Na7 Rb8 18. Nc6 Rc8 19. Na7 Rb8 20. Nc3 $1
Ne5 21. Ncb5 {The white pieces are complety dominating the board} Ng6 22. h4 h5
23. a4 Ng4 24. d4 f5 25. Qc4 {The game is now practically over, there are
simply too many weaknesses in the black position and the white pieces are
working perfectly together} Qf7 26. Nc6 cxd4 27. Nbxd4 N6e5 28. Qxe6 Nxc6 29.
Qxf7+ Kxf7 30. Nxc6 Rbc8 31. Bd5+ Ke8 32. Bxg7 Rf7 33. Bd4 Rh7 34. Bxb6 Rh6 35.
Nxe7 Kxe7 36. a5 Rc2 37. b4 Nf6 38. Bf3 Ne4 39. Bxe4 fxe4 40. Bd4 Ra2 41. Ra1
Rxa1+ 42. Bxa1 Rc6 43. Bd4 Kd7 44. Kg2 Kc7 45. b5 Rc2 46. a6 1-0

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.04”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Schou-Moldt, Thomas”]
[Black “Nilsen, Joachim Birger”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “B27”]
[WhiteElo “2215”]
[BlackElo “2334”]
[PlyCount “83”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nb3 Nf6 7. Be2 O-O 8.
O-O d6 9. Bg5 Be6 10. Kh1 Rc8 11. f4 a6 12. Qd2 {Bf3 is a more normal move here
} Na5 13. Nxa5 Qxa5 14. Bd3 Rfd8 (14… d5 $5 {Is an interesting possibility}
15. exd5 Bxd5 16. f5 Bc6 17. Rae1 $13) 15. f5 Bc4 16. Rad1 b5 17. fxg6 {Not
the best move, but it/^s a cunning one.} (17. Bxc4 $142 bxc4 18. Qf2 {With a
steady pressure}) 17… hxg6 $6 (17… fxg6 {was necessary, but it/^s not that
obvious that hxg6 is inferior} 18. Bxc4+ bxc4 (18… Rxc4 $4 19. e5 $1 $18) 19.
Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Qd5+ Qxd5 21. Nxd5 Kg7 22. c3 $11) 18. Nd5 $1 {Thematic} Qxd2 19.
Nxe7+ $1 Kf8 20. Rxd2 (20. Rxd2 $140 Kxe7 21. Rdf2 Rf8 22. Kg1 $14) 20… Nxe4
$2 {White is very low on time, and black is trying too complicate, instead of
just playing a position a pawn down} (20… Kxe7 21. Rdf2 Rf8 22. Kg1 Be6 23.
Bxf6+ Bxf6 24. Rxf6 Bf5 25. e5 dxe5 26. Rxa6 Bxd3 27. cxd3 $14 {but it is
likely that black can hold the rook endgame}) 21. Nxg6+ $1 {Now white has a
winning position} Kg8 22. Ne7+ Kf8 23. Ng6+ Kg8 24. Ne7+ {Gaining some time on
the clock} (24. Bxd8 {was even stronger} Nxd2 25. Ne7+ Kf8 26. Nxc8 Nxf1 27.
Bxc4 bxc4 28. Bg5 $1) 24… Kf8 25. Bxe4 Bxf1 26. Nxc8 Rxc8 27. Kg1 Bc4 28. b3
{White has a winning position, but in time trouble things can easily go wrong}
Re8 $1 29. Rxd6 f5 {Trying to mess things up, as white is on increment only}
30. Rd8 $1 {A practical decision. White only needs to be sure that the black
e-pawn can be controlled} Rxd8 31. Bxd8 Bd4+ 32. Kh1 fxe4 33. bxc4 e3 (33…
bxc4 34. Bh4 {is also winning}) 34. Ba5 bxc4 35. Be1 $1 ({but not} 35. g4 $2 c3
36. Bc7 e2 37. Bg3 Be3 38. Kg2 Bd2 39. Kf3 e1=Q 40. Bxe1 Bxe1 41. g5 $11 {With
a draw as the likely result}) 35… Kf7 36. g4 Kg6 37. Kg2 Bb2 38. Kf3 Bc1 39.
h4 Bd2 40. Bg3 c3 41. Bf4 e2 42. Bxd2 1-0

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.04”]
[Round “3”]
[White “Hector, Jonny”]
[Black “Bromann, Thorbjørn”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C11”]
[WhiteElo “2505”]
[BlackElo “2413”]
[PlyCount “57”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Nbd7 6. Nf3 h6 7. Nxf6+ Nxf6
8. Bh4 c5 9. Bc4 cxd4 10. O-O Be7 11. Qe2 O-O 12. Rad1 Qb6 13. Ne5 $5 $146 {A
new move in this position} (13. Nxd4 Qxb2 14. Nf5 exf5 15. Qxe7 {is the normal
continuation}) 13… Nd5 14. Bxd5 Bxh4 15. Bb3 Bf6 16. Rd3 $1 {A standard
Hector-move – aiming the opponents king!} a5 17. a4 Qc5 18. Ng4 Be7 19. c3 dxc3
20. Rxc3 Qb4 21. Bc2 Rd8 22. Ne5 Bf6 23. Rd3 Rxd3 24. Qxd3 Qb6 $2 (24… g6 $1
{was absolutely necessary, and also a good move, since it will deny white the
access to h7. Maybe black misses, that it/^s not possible to play neither Nxg6
or Nxf7} 25. Nxf7 (25. Nxg6 fxg6 26. Qxg6+ Bg7 27. Qh7+ Kf8 $17) 25… Kxf7 26.
Qxg6+ Ke7 27. Qh7+ Kd6 $1 $17) 25. Rd1 Kf8 26. Ng4 Bg5 $2 {The final mistake} (
26… Qxb2 27. Qh7 Bd4 28. Ne5 $1 Qb6 $1 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qxg7 Bxe5 31. Qxe5
Bd7 $13) 27. Qh7 f5 28. Ne5 Bf6 {Now white can finish the game with a nice move
} 29. Rd7 $1 1-0

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.05”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Korley, Kassa”]
[Black “Aabling-Thomsen, Jakob”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A04”]
[WhiteElo “2412”]
[BlackElo “2341”]

1. Nf3 c5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 e5 4. O-O d5 5. d3 Be7 6. e4 d4 7. Nbd2 Bg4 8. h3
Be6 9. Nc4 Qc7 10. a4 h6 11. Nfd2 g5 12. Nb3 f6 13. c3 h5 14. cxd4 cxd4 15. Bd2
Qd7 16. Kh2 Rc8 17. a5 h4 18. Rh1 Nb4 19. Bxb4 Bxb4 20. Kg1 Ne7 21. Bf3 hxg3
22. fxg3 Bxc4 23. dxc4 Rxc4 24. Bh5+ Kd8 25. Bg4 Qc6 26. Qf3 Rf8 27. Rf1 f5 28.
Rh2 Kc7 29. exf5 e4 30. Qe2 d3 31. Qe3 Nd5 32. Qxg5 e3 33. Nd4 Rxd4 34. Qg7+
Kb8 35. Qxd4 e2 0-1

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.05”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Smith, Axel”]
[Black “Bromann, Thorbjørn”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “C11”]
[WhiteElo “2481”]
[BlackElo “2413”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Nbd7 6. Nf3 h6 7. Nxf6+ Nxf6
8. Bh4 c5 9. Bd3 cxd4 10. O-O Bc5 11. Qe2 O-O 12. Rfd1 Bd7 13. Qe5 Be7 14. Nxd4
Ng4 15. Qe4 f5 16. Nxf5 Bxh4 17. Nxg7 Bxf2+ 18. Kh1 Rf7 19. Nxe6 Qh4 20. h3 Qg3
21. Qg6+ Kh8 22. Qxf7 Qxh3+ 23. gxh3 Bc6+ 0-1

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.06”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Milchev, Nikolay”]
[Black “Pedersen, Daniel Vesterbæk”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A14”]
[WhiteElo “2422”]
[BlackElo “2275”]

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. O-O dxc4 6. Qa4+ Nbd7 7. Qxc4 c5 8.
d3 a6 9. Qb3 Ra7 10. a4 b6 11. Na3 Bb7 12. e4 Nb8 13. Nc4 Nfd7 14. Bf4 O-O 15.
Rfd1 Nc6 16. h4 Nd4 17. Nxd4 cxd4 18. Bf1 Bc5 19. Rdc1 Ba8 20. a5 b5 21. Ne5
Be7 22. Nxd7 Qxd7 23. Rc2 Bd6 24. Bxd6 Qxd6 25. Rac1 Rd7 26. Rc5 Bb7 27. Bg2 e5
28. Bh3 Re7 29. Bc8 Bxc8 30. Rxc8 Re6 31. Qc2 g6 32. Rc6 Qe7 33. Kg2 h5 34. Qb3
Qf6 35. Qd5 Rd8 36. Rc8 Red6 37. Qb7 Kg7 38. Rxd8 Qxd8 39. b4 Qf6 40. Rc8 Kh7
41. Rf8 Kg7 42. Qa8 Qe7 43. Rg8+ Kh7 44. Rh8+ Kg7 45. Re8 Qf6 46. Rc8 Kh7 47.
Qa7 Kg7 48. Qc7 Re6 49. Ra8 Rc6 50. Qb8 Kh6 51. Qf8+ Qg7 52. Qe8 Re6 53. Qd8
Qf6 54. Qf8+ Qg7 55. Qc5 Qf6 56. Rb8 Rc6 57. Qf8+ Qg7 58. Qe8 Re6 59. Qc8 Qf6
60. Rb6 1-0

[Event “Whitsun Grandmasters 2014”]
[Date “2014.06.06”]
[Round “7”]
[White “Hector, Jonny”]
[Black “Korley, Kassa”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B56”]
[WhiteElo “2505”]
[BlackElo “2412”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Be7 8. f5
g6 9. fxg6 hxg6 10. Bc4 Be6 11. Bxe6 fxe6 12. Bg5 Ng4 13. Bxe7 Qb6 14. Qd2 Kxe7
15. Qg5+ Kd7 16. Qxg4 Qxb2 17. Kd2 Nb4 18. Rhc1 Rac8 19. Nd1 Rxc2+ 20. Rxc2
Qxc2+ 21. Ke1 Rf8 22. Qxg6 Rf4 23. Qg7+ Kc6 24. Qg8 Kd7 25. Qh7+ Kc6 26. Qh5
Kd7 27. Qh7+ Kc6 28. Qh3 Qxe4+ 29. Kf1 Nc2 30. Kg1 Nxa1 31. Qxe6 Qd5 32. Qc8+
Kb6 33. Ne3 Qc5 34. Qxc5+ Kxc5 35. Ng5 Kd4 36. Nd1 Kd3 37. g3 Rf5 38. h4 d5 39.
g4 Rf4 40. Nf2+ Ke2 41. Ngh3 Rf8 42. g5 Nc2 43. g6 Nd4 44. h5 Nf5 45. Ng4 e4
46. h6 d4 47. Nf4+ Kf3 48. Ne6 Kxg4 49. Nxf8 Nxh6 50. Ne6 d3 51. Kf2 Kf5 52.
Nc5 b6 53. Nb3 Kxg6 54. Ke3 Kf5 55. Nd4+ Ke5 56. Nc6+ Kd5 57. Nxa7 Ng4+ 58. Kd2
Kc4 59. Nc6 e3+ 60. Kc1 Kc3 0-1[/pgn]

Categories: Authors in Action, Fun Games Tags:

Computer Moves

June 16th, 2014 8 comments

Try to find the best move in these two positions. I have reduced the problems to sort of candidate moves in order to make it easier for you. There is no need for deep calculation.

[fen size=”small”]r2qr1k1/1pp2pb1/3p2pp/1N5n/1PP1n3/p3B1PP/P4PBK/1R1QR3 w – – 0 19[/fen]

White to play

[fen size=”small”]3R4/4np1k/6pp/R3p3/1p2b3/5qP1/PP3P1P/4Q1K1 w – – 0 34[/fen]

White to play

Read more…

The Mechanics of Chess

June 9th, 2014 22 comments

I promised a long time ago to give some sort of explanation about what I mentioned at some point as understanding the mechanics of chess. It is not so easy to do, but when I mention it to fellow grandmasters, they seem to understand what I am talking about.

It has a lot to do with understanding where the pieces belong. Understanding sequences and how they relate to each other.

To give an example:

[fen size=”small”]r1bqkb1r/p1pp1ppp/2p2n2/4P3/8/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq – 0 6[/fen]

Here the main line is 6…Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 and so on.

I was talking to a GM yesterday that mentioned this as being an example of a pattern of moves that can be used in several situations. He immediately mentioned two:

[fen size=”small”]rnbqkbnr/ppp2ppp/8/3P4/4p3/5N2/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq – 0 4[/fen]

Apparently this is popular among juniors in the US. A lot of knight moves are usually played, but it White plays 4.Qe2! then after 4…Qe7 5.Nd4, he is fighting for an advantage (with an extra pawn as a secret weapon).

[fen size=”small”]rn1qkb1r/ppp2ppp/3p4/5b2/4n3/2N2N2/PPPP1PPP/R1BQKB1R w KQkq – 0 6[/fen]

Famously in Miles – Christiansen the players had agreed a draw in advance and were just making moves here. Miles polished the e2-square before eventually playing the harmless 6.Nxe4 and after a while the game was drawn. It was inserted into Chess Informant without annotations and Viswanathan Anand used it as Black against Zapata. After 6.Qe2! Black will lose a piece as 6…Qe7 is met by 7.Nd5. Anand resigned. Read more…

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags: