Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The LCCC Blog is Yours and Useful – Use It!

Just a reminder LCCC’ers, this blog is yours – just as much as it is the Blogmaster’s.

As a member of the club, you have access to post your chess related (and even unrelated to chess in some instances) stuff to this blog for everyone in the club to benefit from.

Blogs are like mini websites. They are free, easy to use, update automatically, so that you can share your thoughts and ideas with others by simply making a comment. Or you can send what you want to post to the club email and it will get posted to the blog as soon as possible.
Blogs are online journals that allow other people to read your thoughts and reply to them.

Because blogs are not private, they are not a place to put personal grievances or private thoughts - but a place to talk about ideas you want to share with the rest of the world about the chess club. Some examples:
  • Tell people about your experience in a chess tournament or just a chess game.

  • Share some your ideas about a chess topic.

  • Talk about chess and share some tips

  • Provide links to other interesting chess sites on the Internet not currently listed on this blog.

  • Promote and sell something to your club members

  • Write stories or poems…or chess jokes.

For instance, this upcoming weekend a few LCCC’ers will be playing in the Michigan Open. These members will be able to post their thoughts and experiences at the Open here on the blog, so the rest of the club members that could not make it there, can share in the experience.

We have a fine website also. That is our foundation…..our on-line stadium for the world to notice and enter.

The blog is the field where the members perform in front of everyone. The blog is the on-going game for all the LCCC fans to enjoy. And yes, we have fans that can’t play chess at the Club, but still read the blog and visit the website.

So get involved with the blog. It’s here for you too!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday Night Training Session on Tactics – and Some Chess Too!

Jason M. was kind enough to give a 45 minute lecture on chess tactics, complete with examples culled from grandmaster games. It was very interesting and informative. Thank you, Jason.

Jason is planning to do more of these, so make plans to stop by the LCCC – after the Labor Day holiday. We will be closed for Labor Day as our facility is closed.

But we will be back in action on September 10 at 6pm. Hope to see new players, current players and past players all stop by.

We have many exciting things happening at LCCC. On top of the FREE chess training being offered, we have a intra-club league starting later in September. Teams are still being formed so, join the club (for free) and sign up to get in our chess team league.

We also have the on-going Ladder tournament. It is always fun to challenge the players above you and hopefully to win their rung on the Ladder.

There were quite a few casual games and many hard fought speed games played.

But the game of the night was a Ladder game where Scott M held on to his top spot. The game will be posted on the LCCC website later this week.

It was also a bitter-sweet night membership-wise. We had a nice crowd of fourteen players, as Matt T. returned to LCCC from a longer than usual absence. And since he has joined up for our chess league, we add another strong player back to our LCCC stable of regulars.

But we are losing a good player for the school year also. Andrew K is returning to his college campus and his schedule will be such that it will be until next late spring – early summer, before he can return to the LCCC chess room. Good luck in your studies Andrew and we will see you next year!

Four LCCC players – Don J, Ken L, Mike N and Vince V went to the monthly Canton Quad tourney at the Canton Library on Sunday.

Vince and Mike tied for 1st in the top Quad – taking a “grandmaster” draw in the last round against each other – while going 2 – 0 in their other games.

Don J and Ken L each posted a victory in their quads.

Don J got his first chess tournament win – in his first tournament - in the last round! Congratulations Don.

Everyone, the Michigan Open is being held over the Labor Day weekend at The Met Hotel in Troy, MI. LCCC will be well represented.

Even if you cannot find the time to play in it, please stop by and check it out! If you like chess, you have to stop by and see the state championship tourney at least. See you there!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fischer Random Chess Rules

For those of you who want to "mix it up" a little. This does take everyone out of "book" and sends you into the unknown. Give it a try!

Starting position requirements

White pawns are placed as in standard chess. All remaining white pieces are placed randomly on the first rank, with the following restrictions:

the bishops must be placed on opposite-color squares
the king must be placed on a square between the rooks

Black's pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to White's pieces. For example, if the white king is randomly determined to start on f1, then the black king is placed on f8. (Note that the king never starts on the a- or h-files, since this would leave no space for a rook.)

The starting position can be generated before the game by computer program, or chosen by the players by a variety of methods using dice, coin, cards, etc.

Determining a starting position

There are many procedures for selecting a starting position. A common one is that proposed by Ingo Althoefer in 1998, which requires only one six-sided die:

Roll the die, and place a white bishop on the black square indicated by the die, counting from the left. Thus, 1 indicates the first black square from the left (a1), 2 indicates the second black square from the left (c1), 3 indicates the third (e1), and 4 indicates the fourth (g1). Since there are no fifth or sixth positions, re-roll a 5 or 6 until another number shows.

Roll the die, and place a white bishop on the white square indicated (1 indicates b1, 2 indicates d1, and so on). Re-roll a 5 or 6.

Roll the die, and place the queen on the first empty position indicated (always skipping filled positions). Thus, 1 places the queen on the first (leftmost) empty position, while 6 places the queen on the sixth (rightmost) empty position.

Roll the die, and place a knight on the empty position indicated. Re-roll a 6.

Roll the die, and place a knight on the empty position indicated. Re-roll a 5 or 6.

This leaves three empty squares. Place the king on the middle empty square, and the rooks on the remaining two squares. Place all white and black pawns on their usual squares, and place Black's pieces to exactly mirror White's (so, Black should have on a8 the same type of piece White has on a1, except that bishops would be on opposite-color squares).

This particular procedure generates any of the 960 possible initial positions with equal chance. It uses an average of 6.7 die rolls. Note that one of these initial positions (rolled by 2-3-3-2-3 or 2-3-3-4-2) is the standard chess position, at which point a standard chess game ensues.
Rules for castling

Like standard chess, Chess960 allows each player to castle once per game, moving both the king and a rook in a single move. However, the castling rules were reinterpreted in Chess960 to support the different possible initial positions of the king and rook.

After castling, the king and rook's final positions are exactly the same as they would be in standard chess. Thus, after a-side castling (also called sometimes c-castling), the king is on the c-file (c1 for White and c8 for Black) and the a-side rook is on the d-file (d1 for White and d8 for Black).

This move is notated as 0-0-0 and is known as queenside castling in orthodox chess. After h-side castling (also called sometimes g-castling), the king is on the g-file and the h-side rook is on the f-file. This move is notated as 0-0 and is known as kingside castling in orthodox chess. It is recommended that a player state "I am about to castle" before castling, to avoid potential misinterpretation.

However, castling may only occur under the conditions listed below. The first two are identical to the standard chess castling rules. The third is an extension of the standard chess rule, which requires only that the squares between the king and castling rook are vacant.

Unmoved: The king and the castling rook must not have moved before in the game, including having castled.

Unattacked: No square between the king's initial and final squares (including the initial and final squares) may be under attack by an enemy piece.

Unimpeded: All the squares between the king's initial and final squares (including the final square), and all of the squares between the rook's initial and final squares (including the final square), must be vacant except for the king and castling rook. (An equivalent way of stating this is: the smallest back rank interval containing the king, the castling rook, and their destination squares, contains no pieces other than the king and castling rook.)

If the initial position happens to be the standard chess initial position, the Chess960 castling rules have exactly the same result as the standard chess castling rules. In some starting positions, some squares can remain occupied during castling that would have to be vacant in standard chess. For example, after a-side castling (0-0-0), it is possible that a, b, and/or e are still filled; and after h-side castling (0-0), it is possible that e and/or h are filled. In some starting positions, the king or rook (but not both) do not move during castling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Monday May Have Been the Start of Chess Season!

Eighteen players showed up to enjoy a great Monday night of chess action and discussion!
The Ladder Tournament saw;

Scott M. hangs on to the top spot (get used to this sentence),
Mike N. move to the #2 spot,
Don J. used Ladderology – and a win – to move to the #4 spot, and
Mike S. move up to the #9 spot.

Even more exciting is that Trent D. joined the Ladder and FIVE new challenges were made!

It sets up a very exciting situation as next week’s feature Ladder Game will be the battle of #1 vs #2 – Scott M vs Mike N.

I have a feeling that no matter what the outcome of the game, Mike N.’s (me) Ladder dance card will be full for some time to come!

Terry G. gathered opinions on the strength of the players in the club to establish club ratings in order to seed our internal Club Team Tournament. A quick vote decided that we will have 5 three-person teams, rather than 8 two-person teams.

Now that will mean a bye week for a team, but it also opens a spot for a “new” team if players become available. Of course Ladder games can fill in player’s bye weeks with more meaningful games.

We welcomed back Jason M, who has been away on business. He has graciously offered to give chess lessons to the Club on Chess Tactics next week. Free chess lessons from a 2000+ rated player? What an outstanding opportunity! Thanks Jason!

In other news, the Michigan Open is set for Labor Day weekend in Troy, MI. Several LCCC’ers are thinking of playing in the tournament. You can play a 4, 3 or 2 day schedule, so please consider entering.

Even if you don’t enter the tournament, stop by if you get a chance. A chess tournament is a fascinating thing to see. In addition to the games, there will be a vendor or two selling chess supplies and books. Do a little shopping.

Plus there will be people milling about in the Skittles Room looking for a challenger for a friendly game.

There is the Canton Quads this weekend and some of us LCCC’ers may be going there as a warm up to the big event Labor Day.

Get all the information on all the tournament action at the Michigan Tournament link on the right side of the Blog.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ladder Challenge Reservations – I Mean, Member’s Reservations about the Ladder Challenge

Every tournament, regardless of format, needs players. Not everyone is playing in the LCCC Ladder Challenge. That is a shame really. Most members are - and that is great!

But let’s try to list and then analyze some of the reasons someone may not wish to participate:
1. “I don’t want to have to maybe play everyone in the club. I just want to play certain people in the club.”
2. “I don’t want my chess results posted ANYWHERE for ANY reason.”
3. “I don’t like to play with any pressure of any kind.”
4. “I don’t want to have to [challenge/accept a challenge] from a much [stronger/weaker player] than I am.”
5. “I’ll end up on the [top/bottom] of the LADDER and remain there anyway. What is the point?”
6. “I don’t like to [use a chess clock/write down moves].”
7. “I don’t [like/understand] the Ladder rules.”
8. “I [can’t/don’t] attend often enough and all my Ladder rung gains will get wiped out.”

Now let me comment on each Ladder reservation:

1. Nothing anyone can do about that. I don’t think the government has mandated forced chess playing – yet. But, you are missing out big time.

2. Thru - 5.

These are all ego driven excuses and should be dropped like a hot iron. It is a GAME folks. Have fun. In a week or two – or 100 years from now, what will your result of your ladder game on a given night affect? Upsets happen, errors happen and blunders happen. So what? Get’em next time – or don’t – whatever!

Learn from your losses, savor your wins, but enjoy the challenge, the friendships and our beautiful game of chess - not your results.

If I was the second coming of Bobby Fischer and rocketed to the top of the Ladder – and no one could beat me – I would enjoy the status and mentor all the challengers that lost to me. I would go over the games with them and help them in their chess growth. But that is just me.

I might even have the TD to put me back on the bottom after I reached the top, so I could challenge people I did not play on my last climb. But again, that is just me.

6. You don’t have to use a clock. Most players will accommodate your wishes. The players that don’t – don’t play them (they will win the challenges against you however) and don’t challenge them. You will have others who will play by your request. It certainly is not a show stopper. If it becomes prevalent, maybe we change the rule where the challenger decides whether to use a clock or not. MAYBE. But I doubt it will be an issue. Writing the moves of your game is always optional.

7. You can’t learn the rules if you are not using them. The Ladder TD or others can explain them to you multiple times if necessary. And as far as not liking them, you really should be ON THE LADDER to even worry about it. Your opinion would matter a great deal more if you were being affected by the rules directly. All possible improvements will be considered, but the purpose of the Ladder Challenge is to have a simple, easy way for all the players to play all the players in the club – and the Ladder accomplishes that – if players get on the Ladder.

8. If you inform the Ladder TD that you will be gone for a period of time, your spot on the Ladder can be frozen. Challengers can skip you and go “5” up for challenges in the interim. Now, you will drop as people below you beat people above you, but that is life on the Ladder. But you won’t be dropped off or have to start completely over – unless you miss your return date.

Are there any other reasons for Ladder avoidance that I can squash? Let me know in the comment section and I will be glad to do so.

This article is for every player for every chess club with a Ladder Tourney: Your club needs you and your chess game needs you – on the Ladder!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

COG's Ladder - Its All Normal Group Behavior

The basic idea of Cog's Ladder is that there are five steps a group of people will go thru in order to form a team that work efficiently and effectively together.

It was developed by Proctor and Gamble and used extensively by the US Armed Forces to understand Small Group dynamics.

What we all should take from this is that LCCC is normal! This is how groups interact and form – moving up and down the ladder like a Gambit playing chess maniac! So, everyone chill and understand - we are all just being people.

Here are the steps on the ladder – top to bottom:

High creativity, high morale, high cohesiveness
Mutual acceptance and the need for approval is gone
Intense loyalty to the group
Cliques are absent
New members will cause the group to drop rungs temporarily

Open minded and active listening
Team spirit starts to build
Cliques dissolve
Leadership shared
Group identity important
Conflict viewed as a positive means to examine issues
New members find it hard to fit in

Competition for attention, recognition and influence
Conflicts arise – voting needed, compromise and maybe arbitration from outside the group
Cliques assume power and hidden agendas change behavior
Win/Lose interactions can happen
Disclosure is cautious
Wide range of participation (zero to all in)
Some members are close-minded
Tasks are fulfilled but not at optimum completion
Some groups never get past this stage.

Defining the objectives and goals
Cliques grow and wield influence
Identity of the group still low
Begin risk taking
Sense hidden agendas

Getting acquainted and sharing values
Cliques are formed
Hidden agendas stay hidden
Conflict usually absent
Feedback and disclosure at a minimum
Approval needs from the group apparent – end

Recognize any of this? And yes, you can be in between rungs and step up and down as a group on occasion.

So all you chess clubs out there – including LCCC – relax. All this stuff is normal. Just understand where you are on the ladder and work earnestly to move up.

And be sure to play chess with each other while doing that!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

LCCC is an Inviting Place to Play Chess -Even on Election Monday

Another fun night at LCCC. Thirteen players made it on a cloudy, sprinkle rain evening.

Joining us for the first time, also from the Genesee County Chess Club – Mike S. Welcome Mike.

It was nice to see Harry C. and Jewell M. also stop by from the GCCC.

One very tough ladder game was played as Mike N. moved up and will be challenging for the top spot. Of course he has great players ready to climb past him also. Oh, the trials and tribulations of the Ladder!

If you are not yet on the Ladder, get on it! If you are on it, get challenging people. It’s the best way to meet and greet your fellow LCCC’ers.

Now to club business:

It was a quiet election night. Probably the quietest election ever held outside of a mafia Don hit list decision.

But quiet is good and fits where the club is as a group. More on that later in the week as I will post an article proving that everything is proceeding - normally - as our club starts to grow.

We had an election to fill the HUGE void left when Ken L. stepped down as Club Manager. So to get started on starting a committee to set some club by-laws, some structure is required. Much like our nation’s 1st Congress, we need to make sure everyone is heard, but that someone leads that process.

With that said, here are the election results:

In a landslide and un-opposed, Vince V. remains our Secretary/Treasurer. However, he will try to convince Ken L. to take the Secretary spot. If not…..someone expect a tap on the shoulder from Vince!

Mike N. (blog master) won a close election for the Vice-President spot. Now who is the President I will work to undermine………….uh, I mean work closely with…. to advance the club?

Well, we need a run-off for that! Aaron J. and Terry G. tied for the office of President!
Vince V. will be sending an email to all voting members (based on attendance). Vote by email, or vote next Monday at the club. But be sure to vote!

The next step will be asking for volunteers for the committee to build the club by-laws.
Moving from a group that meets at a spot - to an organization that moves forward - is a little stressful. But we all have the same goal – to grow into the best chess club in the world!

We have the talent to do it. Everyone hang in there and be tough. We will get there.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Actively Studying Chess - Conclusion

Not Sometimes And Long But Regular And Short

Try and train on a regular basis. Depending on your time resources, try to spent 30-60 minutes per day for instance. Of course if you can spent more, that's even better. But the idea here is to do it regularly and not too long, because that's the way to develop a habit. And as we all know, habits are sticky! Research has shown that if you do something daily during a period of 30 days, you will develop a habit. If you train only once per week for 4 hours or so, you will not help your brain to develop new chess habits (skills), besides your brain has short attention spans and will tire after such a long period of time.

To Round Up

Of course a lot more can be said about how to study and improve your chess. I will discuss more specific subjects such as:

  • How to build an opening repertoire
  • How to find and address your technical and psychological weaknesses
  • How to analyze games
  • How to calculate
  • Which books to read
  • Etc.

I will also address many of these subjects in my Chess Improvement Newsletter. I recommend you join and get a free copy of my whitepaper "How to Deal with Mistakes in Chess", an interesting psychological essay on the meaning of mistakes in chess. You will find the subscription form just below the top right corner of this web page.

I am interested to hear how you are studying chess and what ideas you have about it. What works for you, what not, and why? Feel free to leave a comment on your thought, ideas or experiences!

Enjoy improving!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Actively Studying Chess - Part 2

Prefer Training Over Studying

Since we are talking of studying it is also good to change your frame of mind about that. Chess improvement has to do with training rather than studying. Studying has a "bookish" ring to it and is therefore insufficiently focused on the enhancement of your chess skills. Of course knowledge is important when you want to improve your chess, but if you are really serious about getting stronger you will need better skills, since they are the game deciders in the majority of cases. How do you think a pianist stays in shape? Not by reading books on music but by practicing his scales of course. And how do you think a tennis pro prepares for a tournament? Not by reading sports columns, but by practicing his service and volley! The same applies to chess. We have to see the brain as a muscle and keep it in shape... by means of training! Studying chess actively has the benefits of training your brain and improving such skills as:

  • Visualization
  • Position-sleuthing
  • Position-breakdown
  • Planning
  • Calculation
  • Decision making
  • Being critical


The 80/20 rule is all about focus really. Finding out what works best and doing more of that. As Seneca put it:

"It is better to have read one book, than to have a hundred on your bookshelf".

Let's apply this to you opening repertoire. The advice here is to focus on a narrow opening repertoire, one that you study closely and deeply (yes, in this case studying is more appropriate), and one that gives you the best chances of gathering valuable experiences, both in quality and quantity, since you keep playing it faithfully!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This Monday Had a Little of Everything

Thirteen players showed for some chess action and a meeting to discuss Terry G.’s idea of starting a 3-player Team League type venue (think the old Metro League) at LCCC. It was well received and most think it would be a great way to increase our number of players, increase player attendance and spark some new friendships as teammates for a season (September to Spring or so, depending on the number of teams).

Players are to get their responses to Terry G. with either a;

Yes – I’m IN!!!!
No – I’m out for the league, but still LOVE the LCCC.
Maybe – I might play, but I want to learn more.

Send Terry, Mike K, Mike N or Ken L an e-mail, or send an email to either club email address, or post it on this blog. Just let us know. We need at least 12 players, and 18 or more would really be special.

On to the action:

In the ladder play;
Mike N and Elliot K. hung on to their ladder rungs with victories.
Ken L. moved up with his win.

On a personal play note, your blogmaster had a very entertaining Fischer – Random game with Vince V, which ended in a draw! It was nice to break out of the standard chess piece set up and get you thinking way before the opening move. If you have never tried Fischer – Random Chess, give it a go. It’s fun.

Next Meeting Information:
The next Club Meeting is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 6:30pm at the Hartland Senior Center. Hopefully Terry G. or Mike K. can secure a room for our meeting.

The topics will be;
1. By-laws and officer posts
2. the election of officers,
3. and hopefully the review of the data collected about interest in a LCCC chess league.

Now in this writer’s opinion, it sounds like a full agenda, but I don’t think it will really take that long to get a foundation agreed to. We just need to get started, and I think we can do it in a couple hours at the most.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Actively Studying Chess

If you actively study chess; you create a serious study environment, in which you find ways to really use your brain, that are beyond your comfort zone

Examples of active chess studying are:

  • Solving tactics puzzles from computer programs, magazine or book diagrams or from the board by means of visualization, so without moving the pieces, writing down the variations, checking them later with the solutions and keeping track of your progression
  • Studying a difficult tactical or strategical chess position on the board by means of visualization, so without moving the pieces, writing down the variations and conclusions and checking them by now moving the pieces and comparing what you see to what your mind's eye saw as reflected in your notes. As a variation you might use a chess clock and add a time constraint, for instance 15 minutes.
  • Playing through a grandmaster game and constantly trying to visualize the given sidelines besides constantly asking questions such as: What is threatened with this move? Why does he play that? Why does he not play this? Etc.
  • Doing the same with your own games, preferably the ones you lost!
  • For making notes of your findings and filing your analysis. These activities are neuro-linguistic and help to imprint what you have learned.

The benefits of these methods are that you step out of your comfort zone, stomp your brain and improve your chess skills, which is very important.

Examples of passive chess study are:

  • Watching chess (technical) videos
  • Just playing through (grandmaster) games while moving the pieces
  • Checking games or positions with the help of engines and not forming your own opinions about them

An example of an-in-between chess study activity could be the memorization of opening variations without trying to understand the moves. Of course learning variations by heart is active, but not trying to understand them is passive. Trying to understand moves at the same time helps to memorize them also, since each move can then be associated with more information which is to the liking of the brain.

Now ask yourself: How do I study chess? Do I use the active or the passive methods, or a mix of them?

Hat tip to Waldemar Moes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Can We Start a Chess League at LCCC?

We have the facility. We have the volunteer spirit. Do we have the players or will a league bring in the players - even if it is only for a once a month event?

Terry G. came up with this proposal. Give it a look and please give us your input. Thanks!

PROPOSAL: Provide ‘team competition’ for all ages/skill levels that want to enroll
· Improve attendance by renewing inactive player’s interest in chess
· Improve balance of ‘skill level’ to achieve more realistic challenges
· Provide stronger motivation to study and improve
· Encourage team spirit and friendships
· Improve opportunity to learn from teammates
· Three person (or more if interest grows) teams are seated according to strength
· Standings based on team results each night (win = 2; draw = 1; loss = 0)
· Schedule runs from September thru April … ONE GAME per month
· New teams formed each year based on ratings/strength (cannot have same teammate two years in a row)

Distribution of Player’s Strength on Teams

Team # 1, # 2, # 3, # n-1 # n (last)
Board 1 - Strongest
board 2 - Middle strongest
board 3- New, Young and Beginning players

* First Year teams are determined by consensus of club members; strongest group on board 1 and next strongest group is on board 2 in reverse order (players distributed much like a Fantasy Football draft)

· Initial players rating: strongest = 1200; experienced = 1000; new/weak = 800 (initial rating for new players are determined by the club’s experienced members)

· Will use Harkness Rating System (transfers points between opponent’s ratings)
16 points for win/loss; 1 point for every 25 point spread in ratings; max is 28

RULE options:
· Must clock be used? Time: 30 moves/30 min. OR 60 minutes/game
· Touch move OR move ends when clock pressed (like speed chess)?
· Must each player record moves (to prove time limit and/or to study)??
SUB options:
· Subs are only allowed on board 3 (new or young players)???
· Bds 1 and 2 can play makeup game within a week if notified the week before
· OR Rating of sub must be within 100 (+ or -) points of absent player???

Please give us your thoughts. Thanks.