Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Not much happening chess-wise in the last few days (except some tactics study with Blokh's book and some fun games with my father!) as I'm busy eating cookies and spending quality time with family, but I wanted to wish everyone happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Anand-Kramnik 2008

So it's official, Anand and Kramnik will play a 12-game match in Germany in October 2008! This is going to be one kick-ass match :)

What to Read While Waiting for Santa

I will be traveling over the holidays so now the time has come to decide which books to take with me. The beauty of having a shelf full of chess books (including quite a few unread ones) is that you have lots of options. Right now, I think I will take the following books with me: Nimzowitsch’s My System (I’ve read it once, but it has been a while and I think it deserves to be read again with renewed focus), Renaud & Kahn’s Art of Checkmate (that way I have some nice and entertaining attacking games to study), Blokh’s Combinative Motifs (so I can continue my daily tactics regimen while being away from PCT) and last but not least, one of my books on the Queen’s Gambit to work on my repertoire. I figure these four books will keep me happy and busy while I wait for the dude in the red costume.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kick Ass Study Session

Ok I'm definitely way too busy with all sorts of Christmas-related stuff, and my beloved mistress (i.e. chess) is not getting all the attention she demands. She is quite pissed I should say.

I did, however, find some time to satisfy her last weekend when I met up with two guys from my chess club, both of them rated around 2000. We went over all sorts of stuff for 7 hours straight! I think that must have been the most beneficial chess study session for me to date. We went over a few of my games, looked at openings, studied end games... cool stuff. My head was spinning towards the end as there was just sooo much information to take in... if I can retain even half of it I'll be doing great :)

I've read that to master anything in life, you need to internalize at least 50,000 chunks of information on the subject you want to master. Well, it was pretty obvious to me that these two guys are a lot closer to the 50,000 chunks than I am. It's amazing how familiar they are with a shitload of positions... I guess there is no quick fix for this, it will take a lot of time and effort to a) get myself exposed to all those positions and b) thoroughly understand them.

Chess improvement is a long and rocky road...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To Base, Or Not To Base

I am trying to decide whether or not to buy Chessbase 9.0. Given the price tag, I want to be sure it’s not just an impulse purchase…

I own Fritz 8 which I am perfectly happy with as far as analyzing games. But more and more I feel like Chessbase would be a really good addition for researching/studying/annotating/organizing etc. On the other hand, I think part of me wants Chessbase purely out of gadget lust - Chessbase could be my shiny new toy that I could spend lots of time with, or as Gollum from Lord of the Rings would say, my precioussss :)

But in all seriousness, it’s kind of the Gold Standard out there, no? So my question to those of you that own Chessbase: would you recommend getting it? Do you think owning both Fritz and Chessbase is overkill, or are they really complementary products? What do you mostly use Chessbase for?

Also, there’s the question of whether to buy the Starter Package or the Mega Package. There’s quite a bit of a price difference between the two, and I’m not sure whether I need all the bells and whistles that come with the Mega Package.

Last but not least, there’s the question of where to buy the software. Seems like has the best price, but I’ve never bought anything there. Does anybody reading this have any experience with

If anybody has any thoughts on all of this, your feedback will be much appreciated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Damn You, Chess Books!

I am weak... I just can't stop myself from buying chess books. So the new additions to the family are Silman's Complete Endgame Course (I fully blame BDK for this purchase, not myself, no sir!), Blokh's Combinative Motifs (the book that CT-Art is based on. I figured I'd get this for the many times I find myself on planes), and then these two:

The Grandmaster's Mind by Amatzia Avni and Inside The Chess Mind by good old Jacob Aagaard (his books seem to polarize people).

I bought these last two books because I am thoroughly enjoying the book I'm currently reading, Chess for Zebras. While one Amazon reviewer thought it was a bunch of "pop psychology", I find it to be a very enjoyable read on chess improvement with some refreshing perspectives. So I figured I'd give the above books a try since they have somewhat related subject matter.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hall of Shame

Ok, so a whole week has passed since last weekend's tournament, and I finally decided to look at my shameful first round loss again. Since there will definitely be more shameful losses in the future, the Hall of Shame might become a regular feature on this blog.

I am on the white side of a QGD, and I started out ok reaching a comfortable position after the following moves:

1. d4 e6 2. c4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg5 c6 6. e3 Ne4 7. Bxe7 Qxe7 8. Rc1 O-O 9. Bd3 f5 10. O-O Nd7 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Be2 Ndf6 13. a3 Bd7 14. b4 a6 15. Ne5 Be8

Fritz shows white to have a 0.25 pawn advantage here, so the position is pretty much equal. Now something happens that seems to be a recurring problem for me. I try to formulate a plan, take a good amount of time going through a couple of candidate moves, and then at the last second I decide none of the candidate moves satisfy me and make a rash, unsound move that wasn't even one of the candidate moves I looked at! Why the fuck would I do that? No idea. I mean, I literally thought about h4 for about 2 seconds before making the move. Anyways, I seemed to think that I could cause some trouble by starting a little pawn storm. Well, stupid idea. After 16.h4, black duly punishes me:

16. h4 Nxc3 17. Rxc3 Ne4 18. Rc2 Qxh4

After this little idiocy, Fritz shows black to be a half a pawn up. Now, that's bad enough, but I think I could have put up a fight still. Which did not happen. I have no explanation for what happend next, but I simply collapsed, panicked, whatever. I proceeded to pretty much self-destruct, leaving pawns hanging left and right in a desparate attempt to coordinate my remaining pieces. I made pretty much the worst possible move every time:

19.g3 Nxg3 20. fxg3 Qxg3+ 21. Kh1 Qh3+ 22. Kg1 Qxe3+ 23. Rf2 f4 24. Kf1 Qh3+ 25.
Ke1 Bg6 26. Rc1 Be4 27. Kd2 Qxa3 28. Qg1 Qxb4+ 29. Kd1 Qxd4+ 30. Ke1 Qxe5 31.
Rh2 f3 32. Qg4 Qxh2 0-1

Well, this was probably the most embarassing breakdown I've ever had in a chess game. I would like to blame it on a gazillion different things, but truth is, I simply fucked up, was impatient, and lost all discipline after losing the h pawn. Note to self: patience is a virtue. Another note to self: having two red bull before a chess game might actually not be that great an idea.

Luckily, I got half my brain back before the next round and proceeded to win my remaining games.

So, here's the full game in all it's gory glory, so you can end the day with a good laugh. Chessaholic at his finest.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Game Collections

I just posted this link in a comment on BDK's blog, but then I thought it's worth a little post of its own just to share it with anyone that happens to stop by my humble blog. If you own Chessbase software and are looking for game collections, positions from popular books etc, you'll find plenty of good stuff on that site. All collections are in Chessbase's CBH format.

And here is another site with lots of PGN files, sorted by player, event, or opening.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Chess Mentor

This might be old news, but I just discovered “Chess Mentor”, a neat little program for “interactive” chess training. As a first step, the program asks you for your level of experience (total novice, beginner, good player, tournament level player & rating), according to which it will determine the difficulty level of problems it presents.

You will then be given a position with some introductory remarks, and of course you need to find the best move / sequence of moves. The program will provide feedback on pretty much any move you make, so if you chose the wrong move, you at least have an idea as to why that move was bad. Also, if you are completely clueless, you can chose to get a “subtle hint”, a “strong hint”, or a “direct hint”.

I’ve only dabbled around with the demo for a little while, but I definitely like what I’m seeing so far. Check it out, it's worth a look.

::Update:: Just read here that the program was recently launched in a new and improved version.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Playing a GM

I played two 3 0 blitz games on ICC tonight against GM Larry Christiansen who was taking on people in unrated odds blitz games. He started the games with only one rook, and of course proceeded to duly kick my ass. Boy that was exciting... It's truly amazing how much he has internalized all sorts of patterns, he moves lightning fast and executes all sorts of tactics effortlessly. So cool.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Busy Weekend

Had all sorts of stuff going on this weekend. Also played my second tournament ever (a fairly small local tournament on Saturday). Had to take a first round bye since I had some work related things to take care of. Played three games in the afternoon (G/60), of which I lost one and won the other two so that's cool. I'm just pissed at myself for really fucking up the first game. I mean, it was ridiculous... I'll post the games tomorrow so everybody can have a good laugh.