Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Seattle Chess Club

For any other Washington residents, the Seattle Chess Club is a great place to play a tournament or skittles games. They offer monthly quads and sectional "tornadoes", with other events sprinkled at times in as well. The events often have a strong showing, with multiple Masters and Experts in the Open section. They also provide a reserve section, which is helpful for beginning players. The tournaments have between 20 and 50 people the majority of the time, except for the multiple day tournaments which usually bring more.

Sorry for the inactivity... school has taken most of my time away. I will add more posts later!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Opening Preparation

     One of the main topics which comes to light in the topic of chess improvement is the topic of opening preparation. It is a common pattern that the player with a higher amount of knowledge in the position often gets an advantage.
     A common mistake which many people make is to spend too much time researching openings- would it matter if you knew the first 20 lines of the Queen's Gambit Orthodox if you overlooked simple tactics? It is hard finding the perfect balance between tactics and openings, yet I find that I use about 20% of my time on openings.
      There are many tools out there which you can use for practice and research. One software program which is well-known is Chess Opening Explorer. You can create your own opening database, and there are many practice options you can choose from. I also like MCO 15- it is an encyclopedic book crammed to the brim with main lines and variations of almost all openings.
      Another important part is to make sure you choose an opening which you enjoy- if you like playing attacking, open games, then openings like the Queen's Gambit are not for you. Remember, the point of the game is to have fun! Always keep that in mind as you progress in your chess career.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Book review: Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual

Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, a book by Mark Dvoretsky, is probably the best endgame book of recent years.  It has very in-depth analysis and examples, yet is not encyclopedic. There are fourteen chapters on how to handle different material balances, one on general ideas, and one on solutions. Dvoretsky highlights the essential knowledge in blue, and has the extra examples in black. There are also "Tragicomidies", which are examples of masters making simple mistakes, and then showing what they could have improved on. Overall, I think that you should read Silman's Endgame Manual for the basics, but this is a good supplement for advanced players.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scotch Gambit Part 1

This is Part 1 of a multiple-part series of articles.
Sorry for the delay- school gets in the way sometimes!
The Scotch Gambit is one of the lesser known weapons in the chess world. Most of the time it gets a transposition to either the Giouco Piano or the Two Knights, but if they do not transpose White gets a good game. A pure Scotch Gambit occurs when black plays 4... Bb4+:

From here, White castles, and gets an open position and piece play in exchange for the pawn.

The first option we will cover is 6. bxc3. Black's only option is to play Ba5.
6... Bc5 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Qd5+
6... Be7  7. Qd5 Nh6 8. Bxh6 0-0 9. Bxg7!

Here is what could happen after that (make sure go through the variations):

White could also play 6. 0-0, but I prefer 6. bxc3. Next time, I will go over the more popular and better options. As always, you can post all questions or constructive feedback in the comments!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Réti Endgame Position

One of the most famous endgame studies was created by Richard Réti, one of the early advocates of the "Hypermodern" style of play. He also created endgame studies, but none have surpassed the fame of this one:

This position looks completely lost for white: Black's pawn seems unstoppable, and Black can just nom on whites pawn when he wants to. How ever, white can pull of a seemingly miracle draw:

This study has led to many spin-offs and similar ones. A great example of saving a seemingly lost game.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review: The Amateur's Mind, by Jeremy Silman

The Amateur's Mind, one of IM Jeremy Silman's series of recommended chess training books, focuses on the "imbalances" of the position and how to use them to your advantage or capitalize on your opponent's. His examples of imbalances include minor pieces (i.e. knight vs bishop or two bishops), material, development, pawn structure, space, initiative and other ones. The book is divided into sections on each one. The other main part of it is detailing how amateurs of different ratings would go about examining the position with their comments as they think. It ends with 26 puzzles asking about the earlier discussed imbalances. This book is good for people in class C and under, but you can still benefit from it if you are higher rated.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rook vs Rook and Rook + Pawn

Rook endgames-the most common ones you will encounter.  However, many people neglect to study these endgames, and thus lose, or draw a won game. I will go over some of the most common ones below.

Rook vs Rook
The rook and king vs rook and king endgame is almost exclusively drawn, except for positions such as the one below. However, it only could be "forced" if someone promotes to a rook or moves into a corner. You will see this endgame the most: 8.45 percent of your games. 

Result: Draw, except in passive positions

Rook + Pawn vs Rook

This endgame is probably the most complicated basic endgame with many different outcomes.

Main Variation #1: The Lucena Position
The Lucena Position is the most well known winning endgame. It's basic characteristics are the non-rook file pawn on the 7th, the king on the queening square of the pawn, and a rook cutting of the king by at least at least one file:

The winning method itself involves "building a bridge", a term coined by Aron Nimzowitsch, which involves moving the rook to your 4th rank to block further checks. Here's how you win from the above position:

If you can achieve the position and follow the plan, it should be a simple win. However, this does not work with a rook pawn, which I will look at later.

Result: Win

Main Variation #2: Philidor Position

The Philidor Position is the way for the side without the pawn to pull off the draw. To achieve the draw the defending side has to have your king on the queening square of the pawn and a rook on your sixth rank, and your opponents king and rook have to be behind your 6th rank.

All you have to do to hold the draw is shuffle your rook along the sixth rank, and once the pawn advances move the rook to the first rank and give checks until the draw is accepted.

Result: Draw

Main Variation #3: Rook Pawn and Vancura Position

The final Rook and Pawn vs Rook endgame is when the pawn is a rook pawn. This all hinges on how close the pawn is to queening, and where the kings are. If the white king is in front of the pawn and the black king is cut off by four or more files, white wins, but if the king is not cut off far enough it is a draw.


and a win.
If it is the rook is in front of the pawn and the pawn is on the seventh rank, it is a draw if the other rook is behind the pawn with either side to move. You just have to shuffle the king from g7 to h7 (if you move to f7 you lose because of Rh8!), and when the king touches the pawn check until it moves away, then move back to the a file.
If the pawn is on the sixth rank, you can win ,only if your king can find shelter in front of your pawn and Black can not set up a Vancura Position:

Shuffling your rook along the 6th rank is a sure draw. However, if white can get to a7 you win with Rb8.

For other scenarios you just have to take it apart and look for the fundamentals shown in the above examples. The way to master these endgames is with simple practice to engrave these positions into your mind. Please comment to ask for more of these if you liked it!