Friday, January 25, 2008

The Good Ol' Canal-Sokolsky

I won’t be posting much (or at all) next week due to other fun stuff I’ve got going on. In the meantime, here’s my first round game of the T4545 league. As the league name suggests, it was a 45 45 game. I had black, and apparently this was the Sicilian Canal-Sokolsky attack, Sokolsky variation. Oh really? Good to know. 'Cos here I was thinking I have no clue how to play this line so I just made what seemed the most logical moves. I think it worked out ok, and after 12…Rad8 I had a decent position.

I haven’t had the time to analyze the game properly so this is all off-the-cuff commentary. I made some inaccurate moves during the middle game and never really got much counterplay going, but overall I defended ok and white didn’t really get anywhere either. (Fritz might have some suggestions here) I think the turning point was 25. ... fxe4, allowing me to open the f-file while getting the queens off the board. The open f-file proved crucial a little later as I was able to cut off white’s king. White tried to defend his e-pawn, which gave me enough time to get my king over to the kingside after white decided to exchange rooks. (giving me a passed f-pawn in the process) After snatching off his kingside pawns I had another unstoppable passer and white had to resign.

I’m happy with the result but I need to work on finding better ways to create counterplay. As usual, there is much potential for more accuracy. But then again, I’m not Fritz.

See ya’ll in a week or so.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Balancing Act

I love imbalanced games - so much potential for action. Like in this blitz game I played tonight. It seems like in my longer games I don't get into imbalanced positions as frequently as in my blitz games... but I guess that's just the nature of blitz.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Drama Queens

I’m sure by now most of you have read or heard about “handshakegate” at Corus. It’s a pretty pathetic episode but it sure makes for some entertaining reading. More here and here. (and on about a million other blogs)

All of a sudden, everybody seems to focus more on handshakes than on chess. There sure seem to be a lot of drama queens playing chess these days...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Benko Gambit

I have teamed up with two guys from my chess club to take up the Benko Gambit. We will meet once a week to study the ins and outs of this opening. Once we feel we have mastered enough of it, we will move on to another opening. Should be fun :)

I’ve started entering games and analysis from two books on the Benko into Chessbase. It’s a long undertaking but I already feel that entering all that information is giving me a good glimpse at the relevant themes and plans. Sort of learning by “osmosis”…

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer Is Dead

Bobby Fischer died in Iceland today yesterday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chess Orgy

Has it really been a week since my last post? Damn… I’ve been very busy with work and life in general this week so posting has obviously been light. On top of that, I’ve been suffering from total chess information overload :) I am playing around with the gazillion Chessbase features, trying to familiarize myself with everything… the package had so friggin much stuff in it, it’s ridiculous. Apart from the complex software itself, there’s the Mega Database with tons of extensively annotated games. Then there’s the Correspondence Database that offers really cool off-beat lines, crazy gambits and all sorts of other good stuff you wouldn’t really see in OTB games, so it’s fun browsing through some of those half million games. Then there were six issues of Chessbase magazine that have shitloads of games, analysis, training exercises, multimedia, etc…. And of course the 9 DVD’s with Nalimov endgame tablebases, with which I’m having some issues right now. After installing them (which took forever), Fritz doesn’t want to start anymore because it can’t find some dll file it needs. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on but haven’t been able to fix it yet. Hopefully that’ll change soon, because I can’t wait to do some extensive endgame studies with it.

Ok enough rambling for now. I’ll be on a business trip for the next two days but might be playing in a mini club tournament on Saturday if I get home on time. I’ll be sure to post about it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Biting The Bullet

So I finally decided to order Chessbase 9. I went with the Mega package. It’s expensive, but hey, I gotta get rid of all that loose change I find in my couch somehow…

Now I’m all excited, feels like Christmas all over…can’t wait for the package to come. I was told that since the package ships with the Mega Database 2007, it will also include a voucher to upgrade to the newly released Mega Database 2008. Not quite sure yet whether I’ll have to send the voucher all the way to the Chessbase folks in Germany and wait for them to mail me the disc… I hope their US distributor will accept the voucher. Anybody have any experience with that?

Anyways, I’m sure this software will make me a GM in no time. It just has to…

On a more realistic note, I really look forward to working with it. My expectation is that it will bring more discipline to the process of annotating my own games, and that it will be super useful in many other areas. Can’t wait to work with the opening reports. Maybe I’ll even start to get more serious about correspondence chess?

I’m also excited about the Nalimov tablebases that come with the package. Although I’ll have to install them on my external hard drive because they take up 43GB of space… I hope with a firewire connection access times won’t be much of a problem.

Ahhh life’s good… now all I need is more spare time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sometimes Everything Flows

This is one of those games that feels almost effortless, every move just feels natural. I am on the white side of QGD Exchange Variation, and I have the initiative pretty much all game long. Black seems to do nothing but react. After white's 8th move, black is already several tempi behind and white owns the center. After white's 11th move, it looks even worse for black. On move 18 white gets a free pawn since black can't take the bishop without losing his queen. The rest was straightforward and black didn't put up much resistance, getting mated on move 24.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Let's Get It On, Baby!

Welcome, 2008. So long, 2007. I’m back from my 2 week vacation and ready for lots of chess. I didn’t study much chess these last two weeks as quality time with my family seemed more important to me. I did, however, get in some 13 long games with my dad on a beautiful new wooden set I gave him for Christmas. Those games were lots of fun and made me realize that I improved more than I thought in 2007. While sometimes it seems the more I study, the worse I get, I guess the truth of the matter is that I might appear to suck more because I tend to play stronger competition than before. Against my father however, who I haven’t played in a year and who on average won probably 50% of our games in the past, my final score was 10-3 in my favor. I was surprised to see how effectively I could often rip open his position, sometimes sacrificing pieces on pure instinct and just making it work by keeping the initiative. My tactical eye was also much sharper. So all in all, I think I’m on the right path. (although the road ahead is still veeery long)

Last year was a good year for many reasons, but I have a feeling 2008 will be even better. I’m going to continue my regimen of tactics study with PCT and tactics books, and hopefully realize some of my goals lined out earlier.

While I didn’t study much in the last two weeks, I did manage to read most of my favorite chess blogs pretty regularly. I am surprised by the recent trend of chess overdosing, frustration and/or resignation I saw. Granted, it’s not really a mass phenomenon or something, but just take, for example, Atomic Patzer's comment here, Lithium's post here (and this related post, or BDK's recent posts starting somewhere here.

They’re all good chess blogs and I’ve come to like their writings partly because their chess struggles feel very familiar. It saddens me to see that a hobby (obsession?) that’s supposed to be primarily a fun thing can cause such frustration. I fully sympathize with their emotions, and I go through similar feelings all the time. I guess we’d all love to see our efforts pay off in the form of a quick ratings increase, some sort of more tangible measure of success, something that tells us yes, all that time and energy spent on chess was worthwhile. It’s frustrating to see so little return on investment in this silly game called chess.

However, that last sentence contains a word I will continue to remind myself of – chess is first and foremost a game, something I do to relax. I doubt that I (or most other chess bloggers) will ever make a serious living off of chess, and so I will continue to study only as much as I can without it taking away from more serious endeavors in my life that actually contribute to my personal and professional development. I think with a healthy, realistic attitude towards the importance of chess in one’s life, and with less expectation of a “ratings miracle” or a certain win/loss ratio, one can more freely focus on studying chess just for the pure joy of the game. I will not impose rules on myself like “I have to put in x amount of hours every week”. I will simply study whenever I feel like it and as time allows (I realize this is probably sub-optimal and will not get me to Grandmasterdom anytime soon, but what the heck – it’s only chess, and I won’t let this beautiful mistress put too much pressure on me).

So here’s to a kick-ass 2008 in which I will continue to get my ass kicked, but in which I will continue to love chess for its complex beauty.