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…

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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.


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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.

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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



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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…

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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.

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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…

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