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!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monroi vs PlyCounter

The concept of an electronic chess notation books has been around for a long time. For a while, the only one of its kind was the Monroi. However, in the past couple weeks a competitor has emerged: The Plycounter, which just recently got its USCF certification, appears to give the same features for a slightly lower price. I will give a detailed comparison below.

Monroi: $359
Plycounter: $169
Winner: Plycounter

Monroi: The Monroi can broadcast games live, notate games, and review past games.
Plycounter: Can do most of the same things as the Monroi, except broadcast games.
Winner: Monroi

Monroi: The Monroi has a sleek silver color. Faceplates in different colors are available. The majority of the program itself is black and white.
Plycounter: The Plycounter is black. I am not sure yet if they have customizable faceplates or things like that. The color of the program is a light blue.
Winner: Your opinion

General Tech Specs:
Dimensions: 3.18 in (W) x 4.96 in (H) x 0.71 (D)
Weight: 200 g
Flash memory: 4 MB, stores more than 50 games
Display: Color, 240 x 320
Dimensions: 4 in x 2.5 in x 0.75 in
Weight: 121 g
Capacity: 2 GB, stores more than 5 million chess games
Display: 2.8 diagonal, 240 x 320 resolution

In conclusion, if you do not need something that looks perfect, but does its job very well, I would recommend the Plycounter because it is cheaper, has more storage, and has a easier transfer method. Thank you for reading this, and if you are considering getting one of these, I hope you take my review into account!

The Monroi...

And the Plycounter.