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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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…

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