An unexamined life is not worth living.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Database files for chess books

Having recently flipped through all 7 of Kasparov's recent books (5 volumes of My Great Predecessors, Revolution in the 70s and the latest Kasparov-Karpov 1975- 1985), I want to have the games in a computer database. What a common nerdy desire! Books are great for calmly re-playing through the moves, but what if I want to add a variation refuting Kasparov's analysis (notes on the margin?), or reference a game from the book in my own analyzed game? I also want to have a collection of games that are useful for understanding the middlegames arising from the openings that I play, and Kasparov's books are good for learning about historic development of plans and ideas (but only some games are relevant to my repertoire).

Seems like I already paid for the contents of the books, I would not be violating anything by having them on my computer (especially - if they are without annotations). A while back gambitchess.com started a great collection of database files for published books, but they don't have Kasparov's books. Yet looking around the Internet, I can only find 2nd and 4th volume of My Great Predecessors in pgn/chessbase formats. Chessgames.com has the collections of games that I need, but I can't download them in one shot without becoming a paid member. Seems like I might just have to download them one by one ...

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Tactics - crazy computer move

Noam Davies - Jiganchine, 2005 (analysis) - White to move

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The black queen captured the rook on a1, and risks getting trapped. But right now it seems that White has to re-capture on f3 - does not he? And Black is also up two pawns...

17. Rd1!!?  - this is the MOST CRAZY MOVE THAT ONLY COMPUTER CAN SUGGEST - but it forces perpetual check by destracting Bf3 from d5. The idea behind moving the rook to d1 is to prevent the Black queen from escaping via d4.(17. Kxf3 Qd4)

17... Bxd1 18. Qxc6+ Kd8 19. Qxd5+ with a draw by perpetual check

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Opening preparation - therapeutic?

A couple of years ago I was playing in an annual BC-Washington chess match. My game has gone into a long and tiring endgame, but as I was walking around, waiting for my opponent to move, I overheard US master Marcel Milat analyzing his game against Alfred Pechisker. Marcel won as Black, after gaining a nice position out of the opening. He uttered one phrase that stuck to my mind: "I find studying theory to be therapeutic." I thought to myself. "Holy Crap, how does he do that, why do I always have a hard time learning opening theory, deciding on which line to pick for my repertoire, and even worse - during the game desperately trying to remember which move to play on move 10, while my master opponent is walking around, wondering what the heck I am thinking about."
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The word "therapeutic" however stuck to my mind; I was wondering how to be like Marcel and calmly study opening theory, the same way I analyze my games and endgames (which I actually do find relaxing and pleasant). Marcel was well-known for great opening preparation when he lived in BC, so I realized that proper attitude is key to success. Several problems seem to have plagued my opening preparation in the last few years (aggravated by rarely playing in regular chess tournaments):
1) Getting tired of old openings after a disappointing game put doubt on a certain line (a crushing quick defeat or unpleasant pawn structure that drags on until endgame)
2) As a solution - trying to switch to new openings, but not having enough practice to learn them, having similar problems (or even worse) in the new openings. This is a known syndrome (giving up on old lines too easily), that leads to 'jumping', but it is sometimes hard to distinguish from just wanting to learn new middlegame structures.
3) In openings that I rarely encountered -  not even having any line prepared at all ("so what do I play here on move 7")

Somewhere around summer of this year, I realized that I if I want to take my chess openings a bit more seriously, I need to change my approach, which now consists of several points:
1) To NOT study new openings in replacement of what I already have.
2) To review and organize (in a database) all the lines that I have ever played - making my repertoire more formalized and concrete, so that over the board I don't have to decide between 3 lines that I have played before. Part of my problem was that I forgot the stuff I actually did kind of know 5-10 years ago, so it was definitely useful to review those old lines. Another source of frustration was having database files scattered all over my hard drive, in different
database formats (some in Chessbase, some in Chess Assistant), making it really hard to figure out where to add new lines, or update existing ones. That had to be fixed for sure. Somewhere (in a database, on paper, etc) - there must be a tree of moves that constitute my response to every possible move, in a style to similar to Nunn's Chess Openings.
3) Fill the gaps I have in my repertoire (identify them first, and gradually - prepare some lines in response to openings I never played...)
4) To plan my other study (practice games on ICC or book reading, etc) around that formalized repertoire.

Thinking about it again - with a more conservative approach, I see how studying openings can be "therapeutic", since I would have a goal that I can gradually move forward to - a manageable opening repertoire that fits into my memory, but also fits my style. As Alex Yermolinsky said in "The Road to Chess Improvement", "Man gotta know his limitations", and definitely with playing 10 tournament games a year, it's hard to master King's Indian, Sveshnikov Sicilian, and Marshall attack from scratch all at once, so you have to make some choices; or else the number of possibilities one has to remember on every move can easily get out of control ...
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Online tactics: passed pawn

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White to move.

I was playing Black, and in this position White was easily winning with Rc3! However, my opponent did not sense the danger, and went pawn grabbing:

42. Kg6 ??

White assumed there is plenty of time to stop the 'e' pawn with Rc2. That did not go so well after 42... Bb4 43. Rc2 Bd2!! 0-1

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There is no defence against e3-e2.

Suddenly White has to give up the rook for the pawn, with Rc4 and Re4, but after that Black wins easily.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Online tactics: GR2770 (2099) - soccerplayer (2278) [A07]

game_8

Here I fell victim to a simple shot:

33.Rxd5! Rxd5 34.Nxf6+ Kg6 35.Nxd5 Rxc5 36.Nf4+ Kh7 37.Nh5 Kg6 38.Nxg7 Rc1+ 39.Kg2 Rc4 40.g4 1-0

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Online tactics: soccerplayer (2258) - Hajnus_Andrej (2092) [C10], 2007

game_10

18.Nxh6+! the whole attack seems to be conducted by white quite correctly 18...gxh6 19.Bxh6 Kh8 20.Bxf8 Bxf8 21.Qd2! Bg7 22.Rg5! Kg8

game_11

23.Rxg7+! Kxg7 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Qxf6 Qxb2 26.Rf1 [26.Rb1 was a bit more precise] 26...Qxc3 27.Bg6 1-0

Saturday, October 18, 2008

BC Chess Championship 2008 - quick overview

Stephen Wright has kindly posted the full games over here, so below is a quick overview of my games, in their critical moments. As you can see, I started with two good wins, but was then struggling to score a win until the last round, which did help me to 'save face'.

Round 1. Jiganchine - MacKay (1:0)

After 16... Kxe7 (variation)

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White got a great attacking position in the Sicilian (which happens to me quite rarely), and Black had to give up a piece just to not get mated. Here is one of the "sacrificial" attacks:

17. Rxe5+!! dxe5 18. Bc5+ Kf6 (18... Ke8 19. Qd6) 19.Qf3+ Kg5 20. Be3+ Kh4 21. Qg4#

Given the strength of my opponent in this game (an FM who was once a member of the Scotch national team) - this was probably one of my best games ever.

Round 2. Davies - Jiganchine (0-1)

After 23. Bc4

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I stopped liking the 'dynamics' of the game - White was about to play Ne3, and neither d5 nor f5 would be possible for me. So it seemed like I must try to break up White's bind on light squares and open up some files to expose his king.

So I came up with the pawn break that in the end worked out to my advantage

23... d5! 24. exd5 f5! The pressure on the f and b files was soon to much for white to bear, and after Nf5-d6xc4, the b3 pawn fell, and then the White king got under a mating attack. Perhaps this was my most satisfying game with the Sveshnikov so far.

 

Round 3. Jiganchine - Patterson (0-1)

After 35... f4

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In in an unclear position I made a couple of aggressive moves, but my opponent discovered a hole in my plot. While I though my queen was putting pressure on Black king and pawns, it turns out that Bd8 is about to win my queen, and h3 is about to threaten checkmate. 36. Nd4 was an interesting suggestion from the computer (with the idea of after exd4 playing Re1, Re6 and going for the perpetual), I played 36.f3 (so that I can play Qg4 after Bd8) and after 36... h3 my king soon got burned (although there were a couple of chances to make things complicated along the way).

Round 4. Berry - Jiganchine (1/2:1/2)

After 10. e4 Bh7

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Jonathan's move order in the opening allowed me to get the bishop to f5, so not being to happy about his position, he played 11. cxd5 and offered a draw. I accepted since getting a bit more rest before the evening game seemed like a good thing.

Round 5. Jiganchine - Wu (0:1)

The most important event in this game happened outside the board - the clock was setup "with delay" instead of "with increment", so in a complex endgame I made several crucial decisions in a bit of a panic, as my time appeared to be running away quite fast. That was of course my own fault - I should have paid more attention to how time was getting incremented before it got too late.

After 33... Nb6

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34. Kf3 was still enough to keep the game balanced. Instead I overlooked the fact that Black can play ... f3 himself. Several moves later I was hopelessly tied up:

34. R5a3?! f3+! 35. Kd3 Rxa3 36. bxa3?! Re8 Now even if there is a draw, I played a few more "natural" moves and lost.

Round 6. Pechisker - Jiganchine (1:0)

After 14.Be2?

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Apparently 14... Nxe5 15. Bxe5 Bf5+ 16. e4 Rxe5 was winning quite easily. White cannot take on e5 or on f5 because then a piece on either d2 or e2 falls with grave consequences. I was already very short on time, so I simplified into what turned out to be a difficult endgame with

14...Bxd2? 15. Nxd2 Rxd2+?  16.Kxd2 Nb3+ 17. Kc3 Nxa1 18. Rxa1 and soon lost. Perhaps that was my most frustrating loss in this tournament.

 

Round 7. Jiganchine - McLaren (1:0)

After 24. Nd6

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It may seem that the position is unclear because of Black's advanced pawns and two bishops, but actually Whites' pressure on the queenside is more important. White won the b7 pawn, and soon - the game.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

British Columbia Chess Championship 2008

Last weekend Stephen Wright directed the main round robin tournament of the year in our province - "the BC Closed". Jonathan Berry had a great run and won the first place with 5.5/7. This year I was both invited, and actually able to accept. I already posted an extensive collection of fragments from the 2001 championship - the last one in which I had competed. I also played in 2000. My play in each championship was probably characteristic of my chess strength and weaknesses at the time:

2000: 2.5/9 (-4=5)

2001: 6.5/9 (+5=3-1)

2008: 3.5/7 (+3-3=1)

In 2000 it was the first time I played in a stronger round robin, so I was unable to see a way to find advantage in any game at all. Opponents were not making the blunders I had been used to from playing U2000 rated guys, so I was not sure what to do about it (having fairly passive openings did not help either). In 2001 I was in a good shape, there were a couple of less strong players (who helped by playing a risky opening as black against me), so I collected all the points I could at the time, and then maybe a bit more when Jonathan Berry tried to win a drawn position so that he could catch up with Milicevic.

This year I was not in a terribly good shape. I want give a more detailed self-analysis of each game, but here are some general notes on what went well, and what did not

-my opening preparation was sufficient for this tournament - in two games my opponents knew more theory about the opening; in one game - I did, but overall each position I got out of the opening was playable, and in 2 cases it was plain better, borderline winning. In a way though, the opening preparation came at a high price - the night and morning before each game I was trying to prepare major opening systems that I had never played before. By the time I was playing the second game of the day, I was regularly having strong headache, and that was not helping. A more important conclusion is that I am more happy now about where my repertoir is going, since the 3 wins I did score - mostly came out of complex middlegames in the lines that are pretty important to my current repertoir.

- My tactical vision was reasonable, although I did miss a simple tactical shot against Alfred, and ended up losing the game.

- There was several complex endgames, and that's pretty much where I lost all 3 of my games. The fundamental problem however was not the endgame understanding, but awful time management. Going into endgames and feeling pretty optimistic, I was spending lots of time trying to find better continuations, failing, and going for simple options which were turning out to be inferior.

The conclusion is not very surprising - I need to be able to play faster, and to do that - I need to make progress in all parts of my game so that the same moves take less effort.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fullbrook - Milicevic, BC Closed 2001

Replay Game Nigel Fullbrook - Dragoljub Milicevic, BC Closed 2001

Nigel Fullbrook - Dragoljub Milicevic

BC Closed/Vancouver (9.4) 2001











40. Kd2 Black's advantage (space + 2 bishops) is obvious and yet it is not quite clear how to exploit it. 40... Ng4! A beautiful strategic piece sacrifice! 41. fxg4 forced 41... hxg4 42. Rh1 g3










43. Nd3 Bg4 It is interesting that even Fritz immediately evaluates this position in Black's favour 44. Ne1 f4-f3 was a threat 44... Rh5 g5 is threatened and it is not clear how White can untie his pieces 45. Nb2? Be3# By winning this game Dragoljub Milicevic also won the title, his 3rd in the last 5 years. However, in 1997 and in 2000 he had to share it with M. Fuentebella and J. Berry. This is his first clear victory. Congratulations! 0-1 [Roman Jiganchine]

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