Friday, 23 March 2007

Stream of Chess Consciousness - 3

I have previously posted the moves of a game I am currently playing against Hiarcs 9.6 (for Palm) on my PDA. I am trying to set down my thought process on this blog in order that I can try to learn from my mistakes and find if there are any particular flaws in my thinking that I need to correct.

I am White and I have returned to the position after 13...Ng4 (see diagram). You can play along using the arrow keys under the board below.

The Knight at g4 creates some threats along the a7-g1 diagonal which I missed last time, so I decided to exchange it off straight away.

14. Bxg4 Bxg4

I was reluctant to do this because I didn't want to give Black the advantage of the two Bishops. Now I decided to unpin my Knight at c3 so that I can start to think of moving it to the nice square at d5, so I continued

15. Rac1 h6 16. Bh4 Qc5+

Fortunately I noticed that 17. Qf2 would lose horribly to Bd4!

17.Bf2 Qb4

Cleverly pinning my hapless Knight again. I was still concerned that Black had the two bishops and now took the opportunity to exchange one off.

18. Bd4 Bxd4+ 19. Qxd4 Qc5

I was a bit upset at this move, which I hadn't foreseen. I can't protect my Queen so I'm going to have to exchange Queens, which evens out the pawn structure - which I didn't want to do. Only later did it occur to me that I could have played Qf2, but this retreat seems to lose the initiative anyway.

20. Qxc5 dxc5 21. h3

I felt sure this was a good idea because I wanted to claim the newly open d-file with one of my rooks and so I needed to drive away the Black Bishop which is covering the d1 square. However, Fritz points out that 21. f5 is better (this was my plan when I originally played f4 earlier!), with threats to trap the Bishop.

21...Bd7 22. Nd5

I changed my mind from playing Rcd1 to playing this Knight move because I liked the threats it creates. Black can't play e6 to kick the bishop away because of Nf6+ forking the Bishop and King. Also e7 is attacked and Rfe8 is met by Nc7 forking the rooks. I was concerned that if I didn't play this move now black would play e6 and stop my knight from ever getting to d5.

22. Rae8 Rcd1 23. Kg7

This last move protects the f6 square so that black now threatens to kick the Knight away with e6.

So, that's where I've got to. I'm a lot happier with my position now than I was a few moves ago. Black no longer has the bishop pair and I have a nice Knight on d5 and more control of the only open file. But I'm concerned that Black may play e6 and kick my knight away from it's post and it looks like it would have to retreat.

I feel that despite playing more slowly I'm not looking very far ahead and missing obvious moves. I think I will try to adopt a more structured decision making thought process when at the board - somthing like that recommended by Dan Heismann at Chess Cafe. (pdf file).

As ever, I welcome your comments on the game and my lines of thinking. Am I along the right lines or am I missing the most important features of the game?

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Beyond the Move

I thought I would share an entertaining video that I discovered entitled 'Beyond the Move' which visually narrates the moves of a chess game by inter-cutting them with scenes of assassins (dressed all in White or Black) creeping up on one another and ... doing what assassins do!

It's quite stylishly done and might convey the 'violent' undercurrent of the game to the uninitiated!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Chess Improvement Plan

I've been playing chess now, with varying degrees of commitment and enthusiasm, since I was 5 years old. I love to play the game, and I could just leave it at that - chess for it's own sake - and not worry about seriously attempting to improve. But as anyone who has ever played chess can attest, the desire to improve is usually strong and compelling.

So at the age of 36 - happily married, with no kids - I think if I don't make a serious effort to improve my chess ability now, I probably never will. I have enough spare time at weekends and some week nights to fill with something more interesting than watching TV or browsing the internet.

So I'd like to pick the collective brains of any readers that find their way here and ask how best to go about this. Now, I know this is probably the most asked question in chess (or a close second to 'Which way around does the chessboard go again?!), and I can probably guess what the answers will be (after all, I've answered this question to other players before myself at the Chess Exchange forum).

But what really works? I'd like to hear any personal experiences and opinions. I recently researched some information about my local chess league with a view to perhaps rejoining (I last played when I was 16) and was somewhat taken aback to discover many names I knew from more than 20 years ago still having pretty much the same rating. Is improvement really possible for the amateur player? Am I wasting my time on a pipedream?

One thing I am not going to do is join the Knights Errant in their Michael de la Maza inspired madness of endless repetition of tactics puzzles. Sure tactics are important, very important, but there's nothing more guaranteed to ruin my love of chess than following this blinkered plan which would surely leave no time for anything else. Good luck to the noble Knights - but I won't be joining you.

I've decided to try out a study plan suggested by Michael Goeller at his excellent blog, The Kenilworthian. In short, it has ten points as follows, with my interpretation for my own plan given after each point.

1. Study tactics, tactics and more tactics.

Go through bookmarked tactics websites e.g. Chess Tactics Server, Chess Tactics Explained, DejaScacchi etc.

2. Do a limited amount of focused endgame training.

Go through Silman’s ‘Reassess your chess’ chapter on the endgame. Look for basic endings advice in Fundamental Chess Endings book by Muller & Lamprecht.

3. Commit to a single solid repertoire as Black and one as White.

With White, base the repertoire around the Sam Collins ‘An Attacking Repertoire for White’ book.

With Black against 1.e4 play the Caro-Kann using Joe Gallagher’s ‘Starting out’ book and Schiller’s ‘Complete Defence to 1.e4’ book.

With Black against 1.d4 play the QGD Tarrasch using Schiller’s ‘Complete Defence to 1.d4’

4. Play through lots of games.

Use the online chess databases to play through games in my openings where ‘my side’ won. Play through games collections:

  • The Development of Chess Style
  • The Most Instructive Games…Ever Played
  • Understanding Chess; Move by Move
  • 100 Selected Games (Botvinnik)

5. Read on strategy only as it relates to your openings or problems you have in your play.


6. Decide how to make decisions and practice it.

Use the Heismann Articles ‘A Generic thought process’, (14)’Initial and Final Candidate Moves’ (59), and ‘Improving Analysis Skills’ (45).

7. Get experience, and lots of it

Play at Rapid games to help get experience of the openings I play. Also play against Hiarcs (on my palm PDA) regularly and save games into Fritz10 database for analysis.

8. Find a coach or mentor


9. Make a time commitment.

Start off with eight hours/week. I should be able to do at least 4-5 hours on the weekend.

10. Find a chess partner.


Any feedback on my ideas will be gratefully received. I seriously want to improve and want to use my time to the best effect.