Archive for February, 2015

Taking Stock

February 26th, 2015 25 comments

Usually I write mainly about what we are doing as a team in the office, write a few more complicated posts about things I am thinking about and so on. But I have not written much about what I have been doing personally the last year – for a simple reason – I have not been doing much…

Most of the people I know at the age of 40-42 seem to be going through a rough path. I alluded to this recently with my very subtly titled post “midlife crisis”.

Last year I would have rejected the idea that it is a moment where you take stock and decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. I would have said that it was an energy question; your body no longer renews itself and you have all these pressures of work, children and depleting energy reserves on top. It just becomes too much and you feel it on a level where you cannot put words on it.

I still like this way of explaining what happens, but I have definitely taken stock and I have made some big changes in my life. All of them for the better. The most positive was to buy one luxury product to go with my IKEA furniture and general discount lifestyle (I am the 2-for-1 king and the reduced aisle stalker…). I bought a BMW 318d Sport. Used of course, but still. It is a really nice car.

Street hustler Athens

But back to what I really wanted to write about: what I am writing.

Boris Gelfand: Positional Decision Making in Chess


I am getting close to the end. This book has really caused me a lot of resistance. Boris has been great – it has been all me and probably this is where I have suffered most in my midlife crisis. Lack of energy to do difficult work. Thus lots of blog posts and a bulking archive of exercises.

I hope to finish the writing of this book in 14 days from now.

Playing 1.e4: Caro-Kann, 1…e5 and Minor Lines by John Shaw

John is getting close to the end, but I will help him a bit with finishing the first book. As always, the name John Shaw on a book means that it is a team effort, with Nikos and I helping a lot (well, mainly Nikos of course!).

No one will believe this, but we will finish this book in March and maybe have it out in April.

Thinking Inside the Box


This will take a long time and be very challenging. I know quite a lot of what I want to say. Keep in mind that no one can know everything before they start writing, so actually it is freakish how much I really know about what will be in this book. I have written a few chapters already and I have a nice synopsis. A clear run will be all it takes. I have no idea if it will take three weeks, three months or three years to write it. The book should be excellent if I do not screw it up, because I have some good things to say. So, let us call that a 50-50 percent chance that it will be as good as Attacking Manual 1 and Positional Play!? If you hated those books, obviously you do not like my style, so then it is 100% it will be crap!

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Good form or good luck

February 20th, 2015 7 comments


Last weekend I played two games in the 4ncl. It went well.

John Shaw (2426) – John Richardson (2330)
4ncl 14.02.2015

Assess the position and choose a move for White.

White to play

Read more…

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The French Fist of Fury

February 18th, 2015 27 comments

Ian Snape (2135) – Andrew Greet (2450)
4NCL, 14.02.2015

My opponent is not so highly rated, but he used to be in the high 2200s and in our previous meeting I was on the rough side of a draw. This time, however, I had Playing the French to help me…

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.dxc5 Bxc5


In one previous game my opponent played 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.0–0–0, which seems rather risky. 11…Qb6 12.Bd3 b4 13.Ne2 a5 14.Ned4 was Snape – Shepherd, Coulsdon 2013, and now after 14…Nxd4 15.Nxd4 0–0 Black’s attack is further advanced.

I also saw that Snape has played the text move on two previous occasions, but neither of his opponents chose the most accurate continuation at move 12 below.

10…Qb6 11.Bxc5 Nxc5 12.Ned4 Bd7!

12…Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Bd7 is fully playable, but the text move is more flexible, as explained in “Playing the French”. Rather than hurry to exchange knights, I’ll let my opponent do it and develop my bishop in the process.

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Midlife Crisis?

February 16th, 2015 33 comments

“What has been interesting is seeing how much easier it is to work on a project once how it’s going is divorced from how I’m doing. It frees me up to experience all the ups and downs and swings and roundabouts of my emotional life while continuing to move forward step by step and day by day on my goals and projects.

And because attempting to control my own state of mind is no longer at the forefront of my thinking, the innate well-being of my essential nature rises to the surface more and more of the time. I’m doing better than ever, regardless of how things are going; things are going better than ever, regardless of how I am doing.”
– Michael Neill

I am in Athens licking my wounds and talking about chess. Friday-Sunday we had a three day training seminar, where we focused on Candidates (seeing what you do not see automatically) and The Three Questions (Where are the weaknesses? What is the opponent’s idea? Which is the worst placed piece?). Tonight I will talk for a few hours about the work with Boris Gelfand and the coming book.

Recent events in my private life have made me think a lot about who I am. At 41 years of age, this is a classic thing to do of course. 2014 was a very hard year for me in many ways. Not the least of it being that I was struggling a lot – and I really mean a lot – to get serious work done. I am truly blessed to have good friends like John and Boris and Nikos morally supporting me and understanding that this is a transitional phase that we all go through. I also think it is coming to an end, even though the beginning of 2015 has been as challenging as 2014 was.

I have learned a lot of things from this process, not all of which I have fully digested, but I wanted to share a few of them here.

1. I am a good person that means well. I have my insecurities and problems with communicating things clearly, but I really am happy with who I am.
2. I do not express enough how grateful I am for people’s company and friendship. I will try to rectify this in the future.
3. If there is a big problem in your life, you really need to address it. It will only grow and grow. Churchill said that if you refused to fight a battle when you could win easily, you would have to fight it later when you were fighting for your survival. I believe this is true. I just have not followed this advice as often as I should…
4. I really care about the work I do and this is a good thing.
5. I need to be kinder and more forgiving of my mistakes. Laugh at them, rather than judge myself. I was doing this already, but I am better at it now.
6. I needed to take better care of myself. I have started doing this and it has been a part of the solution to the midlife crisis.
7. Start following your own advice more!
8. When you are tired, go to sleep. Do not talk to people about important things.
9. My social skills are heavily impaired by my gender.
10. You are an adult once you have figured out that you need to give it your best shot and see where it lands. Everything else is just a waste of time…

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Petrov’s ‘The Modern Benoni’ – still working

February 10th, 2015 7 comments


I like to keep an eye on how our various opening repertoires are performing over the board. When seeing a new game in the database, there will be comments in the office such as “That’s in Avrukh” or “I edited this line – it’s in Petrov.” The following recent game from the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters is both Avrukh and Petrov.

Re. Schaefer (2104) – M. Muzychuk (2520)
Gibraltar Masters 27.01.2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6

A move order favoured by some Benoni fans.


After 3.Nc3 Black might well prefer 3…Bb4 rather than a Benoni.


With White committed to a kingside fianchetto, the Benoni is a more attractive option to some.

4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Bg2 Bg7 8.Nf3 0–0 9.0–0 Re8

9…a6 10 a4 is an equally common move order.

10.Nd2 a6 11.a4

Back in the main line.

11…Nbd7 12.h3 Rb8 13.Nc4 Ne5 14.Na3 Nh5 15.e4 Bd7 16.a5 b5 17.axb6 Bb5 18.Naxb5 axb5 19.Nxb5 Qxb6 20.Na3 Qb3

This is all following the main line of the main line of the main line of Marian Petrov’s answer to the Fianchetto System. It is variation B332322 on page 244 of GM Repertoire 12 – The Modern Benoni for those who have the book. It is also where Petrov meets Avrukh’s GM Repertoire 2. I would bet Boris will choose something different next time.

Read more…

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Testing a Negi Recommendation

February 3rd, 2015 22 comments

Andrew Greet (2454) – Adam Hunt (2437)
4NCL 10.01.2015

Adam Hunt has always been a tough opponent for me. I lost to him several times as a kid, drew some games here and there, but had never beaten him. Our most recent clashes were in 2010, when I drew one game from a winning position and lost another in which he simply outplayed me. In short, I felt like I needed to do something different to break out of the cycle of bad results. It just so happens that Adam is a lifelong Najdorf player and, at the time when the game took place, I had not long finished editing Parimarjan Negi’s superb 1.e4 vs The Sicilian I against this very opening. Despite not having played against a Najdorf in well over a decade, and never having played 6.Bg5 in a serious game in my entire life, I decided this would be a good moment to roll the dice. To make matters more interesting, the book was not yet published and I didn’t have any of it saved on my laptop, so my preparation was based entirely on my memory of editing the book. Fortunately Parimarjan did an excellent job of explaining the most important ideas, so I felt like I would have reasonable chances to bluff my way through any unfamiliar territory.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0–0–0 Nbd7

My pre-game prep revealed that Adam had tried a few different lines against 6.Bg5, but the Three-Piece System (to use Negi’s terminology) had been his most frequent choice.


Negi mainly focuses on the main line of 10.g4, in which he also has some excellent ideas for White. However, I decided to go for the text move, which is covered as a secondary option. I chose it partly for surprise value, and also because I was familiar with the main plans and knew I wouldn’t have to recall too many complicated variations.

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