Saturday, July 21, 2018

Game of the Day 6

One of the problems we've had in the chess world has been retention of players. Lots of primary school kids have a go, but don't continue into their high school days. And once at high school, we lose players to other activities and interests, and especially during the crucial exam times. The drop off continues into young adulthood, as higher education, work, and love and life take priority. While some come back to the game it doesn't compensate the amount of players lost.

My job is mostly teaching the game at the primary school level and my aim is to make those kids value the game, rather than excel. If I find kids that excel it is a bonus, and I can and do help them to further their skills and interest in the game. What I would love to do is to make a generational change in attitude to chess. I want kids to be encouraged by their parents to play a game that those parents enjoyed when they were at school. I would like to see schools and kids accept that if someone has a different interest to the norm, then they should be allowed to express themselves through that activity. Certainly at high school level, chess is often seen as a waste of time, a high brow activity that is "boring" and "uncool". It is this attitude that I'd like to change.

So what has this to do with the Game of the Day? One of the greatest prodigies chess has ever seen was Samuel Reshevsky, and as he says in his book, "Reshevsky's Best Games of Chess",

- "To achieve world-wide fame at the age of eight is a mixed blessing."

But Reshevsky's amazing talent as a child was halted when he turned twelve year's old. "My career as a child prodigy ended in 1924, when it was decided that a formal education was long overdue". While Reshevsky never lost his love for chess he played only sporadically for the next 10 years and I always wonder what he would have achieved had he continued his amazing start uninterrupted. His sensational come back to chess saw him take part relatively successfully in Pasadena 1932 (equal 3rd behind Alekhine and Kashdan), and Syracuse 1934 (1st ahead of Kashdan, Fine etc) before heading to Europe to try his luck. At the very first tournament he played in, he faced the mighty Capablanca. In the 10-player field Reshevsky scored 7/9 to come first ahead of Capablanca who he beat in their individual game. The game is a great example of playing against weaknesses, but my favourite bit of analysis is in the following position.

Capablanca had just played 25..b6 and offered a draw. Reshevsky writes, "Here Capablanca offered a draw, but since I had a clear initiative, and pressure on Black's weaknesses I declined the offer". How many of us would have had the nerve to refuse the draw offer by one of the all time greats? It is inspirational, and this fighting spirit is something I've touched on before in this blog. A player who wants to improve has to play the game out, even if that means losing. It is a tough discipline but one that will pay dividends.

Reshevsky went on to win this game, win this tournament one of many successes in his lone chess career. He never became World Champion though he was close a few times, and I wonder whether he would have become World Champion if he hadn't been a part time chess player through his formative teenage years?


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Monday, July 16, 2018

Victorian Championship Round 3

After 3 rounds of the 2018 Victorian Championship there is only 1 player on a prefect score, FM Luis Chan. Luis beat me from a level position when I overestimated my chances and pushed from a position that really didn't warrant it. It was a very cool performance from the junior player.

Half a point behind the leader are FM Domagoj Dragicevic and John Nemeth, 2 players who have both shown good form this year. They both won as Black yesterday so will go in to the 4th round expecting White. I'm on 2/3 along with a group of players. FM Greg Canfell beat Christopher Lim. I didn't see too much of this game. Thomas Feng played his first game of the tournament and beat FM Eddy Levi, Milenko Lojanica mixed it up against the solid Himath Dissanayake with a kind of Hennig Shara Gambit. Bill Jiang grabbed material against James Watson and hung on to it, and Marcus Raine finished the longest game of the day victorious against a tough to beat Sarah Anton.

It is still early days and anyone can still win this event. It is good to see everyone off the mark as the bottom board game between Regan Crowley and Richard Voon ended in a draw. However, one thing that Chess Victoria will have to look at is the bye situation and forfeits. I guess in amateur chess we are always going to have real life issues that get int he way of our chess, but this tournament has only had 3 rounds and in that time there have been 10 half point byes, 1 zero point bye, 1 full point bye, and 2 forfeits, To put it another way, we have 28 out of a possible 36 games played so far or nearly a quarter of the games haven't been played. Is this really good enough?

The good news is that the tournament will continue as a one game per week event, after the 3 week break we just had. This certainly broke the momentum of the tournament and is something else that could be looked at for next year.

So here is a position that happened in my game against Luis. We had both aimed for this position from a few moves back. The question that needs to be answered is whether White's d-pawn is strong or weak. The answer is probably neither, with the position sitting on a knife edge. Whatever the assessment, Luis played the position from here better than me and won the game convincingly from this position to take the lead in the tournament.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Chess Season

It feels a bit funny talking about the summer chess season as I'm sitting in the middle of  an Australian winter. But I've become used to being on the periphery of the chess world. Australian chess has improved hugely since I've arrived inasmuch as there are more higher quality tournaments around the country, and the general quality of chess at the top level has risen. When I first arrived in 2005, Australia was ranked about 60th in the FIDE countries list, while now we sit in 44th position. This has been  achieved by a talented group of youngish players, as Australia's top 10 has only 2 players born before 1990. We are all hoping that our team can put in a good performance at the upcoming Olympiad in September.

The Olympiad will come after what appears to be a great summer season. I'll be posting more games from classic books, and analysis of events here in Victoria, but I'll also be following some international events as their are some that really excite me.

- The 2018 US Junior Championships start in a few hours and both the boys and girls tournaments will be great with plenty of fighting chess.

- Dortmund and Biel are the traditional summer festivals in Europe, and both tournaments have top 10 players and some talented lower rated players (not much lower rated!). I have to admit that I've been left a bit cold by the the elite chess series of tournaments we've had, as the same players keep coming up against each other. It is good to see some new faces challenging the elite.

- Danzhou might just be the most exciting tournament of the summer, especially for us in Australia as the time zone means that we'll be able to see quite a bit live. A stunning young field led by 24 year old Yu Yangyi, the current number 14 in the World while the new, 20 year old, Polish number 1, Duda coming up against 19 year old Chinese sensation Wei Yi. Even the oldest player in the field, Bu Xiangzhi, is interesting as he is the man who knocked World Champion, Magnus Carlsen out of the World Cup last year!

- The British Chess Championship is a tournament I always follow as I knew many players involved. Sadly, I personally know more players in the over 50 tournament than the Championship nowadays, so I'll be watching the results of some of the other events at the tournament. This year the Championship is being held in Hull which is where I went to university, so it has even more meaning to me.

- Sinquefield Cup dominates the second half of August, and it has absolute elite fields competing in sections for blitz, rapid and classical chess time controls. It will be probably the last chance to see a Carlsen-Caruana clash before their World Championship clash. While this is the most elite event of the summer, it isn't the most exciting for me. Saying that, I'll be following it much like many chess fans throughout the world.

It's great to follow elite tournaments, and easier to do so than ever before with websites such as chess24, chess bomb, TWIC, etc. Of course, watching isn't a substitute for playing, but analysing the games of others is an impsrtant skill to learn, and trying to analyse games in progress is a great exercise, like a 'guess the move' type of thing, but in real time.

You'll probably be hearing some more about these events on this blog over the next couple of months!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Coffee in the Country

Moving out of the city was a refreshing change for myself and Caroline. Not everyone is made up to live in a city, however great that city might be. And Melbourne is a great city! I've lived in a few, and Melbourne is fantastic as cities go. I guess upbringing will play a part in a person's comfort zones, and both Caroline and I grew up in a town environment, moving to cities later in our lives. We've now moved back to a small town surrounded by lush countryside, albeit on the other side of the planet. How things go around...!

Misty view of the Latrobe Valley

For all my talk of not being a city person, I still love a good barista style coffee, and I haven't been disappointed with what I've found in Baw Baw Shire. The Drouin and Warragul areas in the Latrobe Valley have plenty of cafes dotted around, and every small dot on the map has a cafe or bakery. It is too much to try them all, though I'll give it a go! I even lower my expectations when I'm outside of Melbourne, though there is really no need. I guess when you're just an hour's drive away from Melbourne's south east suburbs, some parts of the city are going to filter to country towns (pun intended).

We go over to Warragul quite often, because it is bigger and has more shops and retail outlets and it's only 8 minutes drive. We also have a favourite cafe, Earth Market Cafe. They have a great and varied food menu, catering to many different food needs including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. I have a particular liking for porridge at breakfast and Earth Market's is excellent with a strong almond taste, and thick cut oats that you need extra milk with to break up and they serve it with banana or berries. However, check out the posts on their facebook page to see the quality and variety of food served.

Earth Market Cafe

The main reason for going to a cafe is the coffee, and Earth Market serve great coffee. They use Dukes coffee for those of you that like the Prahran hangout, or the Central Melbourne vibe, and my long black comes out full bodied, with a rich crema, and a mellow, slightly sweet, chocolaty/licorice flavour.

The Earth Market Cafe is a really chilled out place to hang out for a coffee. The staff are friendly and aren't hovering around you to see if you have finished your coffee (or to watch you wipe your eyes when you get to a particularly sad part in the book you're reading!). Its central location in Warragul makes Earth Market Cafe an ideal place to start off a days shopping, rest half way, or end up in to relax after shopping.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Game of the Day 5

Different Analysis Styles

One of the things we're taught is that after we play games we should analyse with our opponent, especially if we are playing a higher rated, or more experienced player. When we go through the game we get an insight into the thought processes of our opponent, and the more players we analyse with, the more different thought processes we encounter. It is then down to us to filter the good analysts from the less good, to take the best parts of a player's thoughts and be critical of their weaker ideas.

It is the same when looking through books of games annotated by Grand Masters. Each will have a different style of presentation based on their style of thought. Some have stronger opinions, some are more verbose, some look deeply into calculating variations, some pick only critical positions to examine, some try to uphold their ideas through their analysis, while others will seek definite proof of  the truth in various positions. But whatever the style of thinking that brings a great player to come up with their ideas, it is worth examining.

This is the 5th game that I'm showing and it brings a different analysis style than the previous games

GotD 1 was a game by Lasker analysed by Reinfeld and Fine. The notes aren't too deep, and only a couple of critical positions are examined in any depth.

GotD 2 was another from the same authors, although here we see to a greater extent what a hero Lasker was for, at least one of the authors, Reinfeld.

GotD 3 was from Tartakower's autobiographical games collection. Tartakower is very wordy and likes to bring wit into the analysis, though it can sometimes be cutting.

GotD 4 was a clasic from Rubinstein analysed by Kmoch who like Reinfeld, was writing about a player he somewhat idolised. And like Reinfeld and Fine, the notes to this game are sparse and designed more as general advice for less experienced players than a thorough analysis.

Today's game is from "100 Selected Games" by Botvinnik. Now Botvinnik is perceived as one of the legendary analysts of the game and he believed that publishing analysis gave him a forum to debate his ideas about chess, to put his ideas in a public space for others to criticise, and for him to discuss and defend. Botvinnik's analysis style combines the general ideas style of Reinfeld or Kmoch and adds more analysis of variations with more definite assessments. Sometimes Botvinnik's analysis can seem rather brutal, but he upholds his ideas of logical thinking through to the end. Logically speaking, we can see Botvinnik's analysis style taken to its conclusion through the analysis style of his great pupil, Kasparov. It must have been truly amazing to see these two working together!

100 Selected Games is written in the descriptive notation, like the other other books I've mentioned, but if players could go through these games and analysis, they would get a great deal of wisdom and ideas. The book takes us up to 1946 so Botvinnik's early career and his build up to being the strongest player in the World. I have chosen his game against Tartakower from Nottingham 1936. This was a truly great tournament with a super strong top of the field: Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker, Euwe, Botvinnik who all held the World title at some point in their life. Bogolyubov and Reshevsky who both competed for the World title also played! Botvinnik's win over Tartakower was awarded the brilliancy prize for this great tournament and shows what a great calculator Botvinnik was, always happy to join in a complicated fight and trusting his fantastic calculation and logical thinking.

This is my favourite bit of the game. Black has just played Ng6. Botvinnik's thinking is clear and execution is deadly. He describes ..Ng6 as "the only way of freeing the king's road to the Queen side without giving up defence of f7. If the king succeeds in slipping away (eg after Qh6 Ke7) Black will have chances of salvation. But how can White prevent the Black king from fleeing?"

See for yourself in this great, and under rated game. Enjoy!

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Game of the Day 4

I have more than 1 book on Rubinstein, a player I'm fascinated with. Rubinstein learned the game relatively late in life compared to most great players at the age of 16. But already 10 years later he was beginning to establish himself as one the top players in the world. He was strong enough to be considered for a World Championship match against Lasker, but never got the chance to play because of the outbreak of the First World War.

Rubinstein's style was fairly universal, but he tended more toward the safe side of chess. He was a great innovator int he opening, a fantastic attacking player when he had the chance, great with the initiative, and solid in defence, but his true forte was the endgame, and especially rook endgames.

I have 3 books about Rubinstein and others that contain short parts about him. The most basic of the 3 biographies is "100 Selected games" by Hans Kmoch, a master strength contemporary of Rubinstein. The notes in this book are fairly simple to follow, and it provides a great introduction to Rubinstein. Much of this book is available to browse in google books.

The game I have chosen today is Spielmann-Rubinstein St Petersburg 1909. This tournament was a great triumph for Rubinstein who shared equal first with World Champion Lasker, and winning their individual encounter. Rubinstein also played a masterful pawn ending against Cohn in this tournament that everyone should know. Against Spielmann, Rubinstein came back from a bad position to win a rook endgame that seemed impossible to win.

Rubinstein was Black in this game, but if his opponent Rudolf Spielmann, a famed attacking player, could have found the best continuation here, we would have been talking about him rather than Rubinstein. See what you can find, and then check out the full game at the end of the article.

The main brilliance of this game starts from the following position:

White has more pawn islands than Black which makes Black's position preferable, but if White can swap his a and d-pawns for Black's d-pawn, the endgame with 3 vs 2 on the king side is almost certainly drawn. Rubinstein was aware of this and his play was directed against this. Have a look at the game with notes by Kmoch, and I will post a more detailed analysis of this endgame, which is annotated in Kasparov's "My Great Predecessors" volume 1 among others.

Anyway, enjoy the game!

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Game of the Day 3

Time to move away from Lasker, and on to "My Best Games 1905-1954" by Tartakower. Takrtakower, like Alekhine, wrote 2 volumes of best games, and these are both included in this book. I decided to pick a random game, so as I'm 51 years old, I chose game 51 from volume 1, Tartakower-Marshall New York 1924.

Of course, New York 1924 goes down as being one of the greatest tournaments in history. It was a star studded field with Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine all playing. Marshall finished 4th behind the big 3, while Tartakower struggled and could only finish 8th. In his book, Tartakower entitles every game and he called this one:

Transmission of Weaknesses

The position he had in mind was this one. Black has a weakness on d5, but it isn't easy to direct an attack against it, so Tartakower changes the weakness to c6 which can be attacked easily on the c-file. 13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Ne5 Bd7 15.Nxd7 Nxd7 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Rc1 and the position has changed significantly.

Black's c-pawn is immobile as it must protect d5, so it becomes a fixed weakness that can be piled up on. Meanwhile, Black has no counterplay so White can be said to have a stable plus. It is not enough to win, but Black is on the defence here. Marshall played 17..Qf6 here which perhaps wasn't best (maybe 17..Qb6 was a better direction to try).

Tartakower played 18.e3 relieving himself of any possibility of losing the e-pawn and a move he would probably need to play anyway if he continues with a slow build up. Tartakower makes no mention of another possibility in this position. 18.e4!? taking advantage of the fact that Black's d-pawn is pinned. After a trade of pawns on d5, a new weakness has been created, an isolated pawn on d5, while White will also have a 2-1 majority on the Queen side. A typical line would continue after 18.e4 Nb6 19.exd5 cxd5 20.a4 Rad8 21.a5 Nc8 when Black is feeling the squeeze.

Tartakower was quite wordy in his analysis, which might appeal to some and not to others. However, this is a theme which occurs in many games, and also a missed opportunity that spoils advantages. It is a skill to play against a weakness, and a bigger skill to transfer the weakness to a more easily attacked point. Here's the full game with Tartakower's analysis which is well worth a read. He rips into Marshall somewhat!


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