Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jason's Lesson Corner - End Burnout! Part 2

Jason continues his advice to stop chess burnout!

4. Giving up too much space, particularly in the centerIMHO having extra space in which to maneuver is, besides a material advantage, one of the easiest for a strong player to utilize. Having more space increases the number of possible ways to accumulate resources at some location on the board faster and in greater numbers than one's opponent. Because you "get there firstest with the mostest", space advantages often lead to sacrificial breakthroughs of a minor piece (or two) for open lines -- especially to expose a king or to get far advanced passed pawns. If you're giving up space, particularly in the center, you're asking for a miserable game. See Nakamura - Giri from the recently concluded Grand Prix tournament for a great example of turning a space advantage into a winning pawn breakthrough.

5. Playing too passively (e.g choosing cramped openings without understanding the importance of "freeing moves" (i.e., pawn breaks)
Hand in hand with the above, if you're choosing cramped openings where you concede a space advantage in the center or on some flank for future play against it, then you'd better understand the thematic counter play mechanisms (i.e., pawn breaks, piece placements, common tactics, etc.), else your opponent will implement his plans unopposed.

6. Wasting time (tempos) in all phases of the game
GMs are highly cognizant of wasting time by moving the same piece more than once in the opening or by grabbing minor material at the expense of development. Moves that apparently threaten something but only elicit a response that forces a retreat and a subsequent improvement in the opponent's position are avoided (i.e. pinning a knight with Bg4, Bg5, Bb5, Bb4, provoking h3, h6, a6, or a3 and then not taking the knight.). Also, watch when GMs make moves like castling, moving pawns around their kings, or re-positioning their kings (in the opening or middle game, not endgame): they almost always play these moves when their opponents last move threatens nothing. When your opponent plays a move that threatens nothing, that is an opportunity to either strike out or to take time to repair, improve, or fortify your position, too.

7. Neglecting your king's safety (castling, making-luft, removal from open lines, etc.)
We've all been there: we're about to administer the coup de gras, and just when we play what we think is the decisive move, our opponent, instead of resigning, plays <insert move> check! Ugh!!! Our brilliant combination falls apart because of a devious double attack on our king and some other exposed piece. Thus, before conducting active operations, you will see that all GMs will make sure that their kings are safely tucked away. Being safe, at a minimum, means that all avenues of attack have been blocked and that the king cannot be checked. If you observe GM games, you will see them erect a kind of fortress with pawns on f2, g3, and h4 and the king on h2 (and so on symmetrically around the board). In this formation, the king is guarded from all three directions (the a8-h1 diagonal, the 1st & 2nd ranks, and the h-file), back rank mating threats are minimized, and the king has bolt-holes to escape if need be. Knowing when to play moves like Kh1 goes hand in hand with my comments above, because doing so has to balanced by the consideration that you are moving your king one square further from the center, which could be important in some endgames.
To these items, I could add:
Not coordinating your pieces: neglecting harmony and cooperation, not playing the "whole board".
Losing basic endgames that you should draw and drawing those that you should win (poor technique)
Not managing your time wisely and not knowing when to calculate vs. when to evaluate
... but, this is a decent short-list of points to work on, so I'll stop.

From what I've read and observed, attention to these kinds of details is the shortest path to rapid and significant improvement. One thing that I keep reminding myself (because I still have this dream of reaching 2200+ myself) is that chess mastery is all about the degree to which you've internalized the basics such that you follow them without much, if any, conscious thought -- much like a golf swing or batting in baseball.  You just do it until the mechanics become instinct. That only comes from lots and lots of play and analysis with stronger players.

I'm always interested in playing better myself, so I'm happy to chat about these points with folks at the club anytime! - Jason

Thank you Jason!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It Was a Fun Tournament Night at LCCC

The “Training Tournament” was a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in it.

We had 17 players in attendance, with 10 taking part in the tournament. We also had two players that took 1st and 2nd round byes, but will play in the last round next week.

The tournament games consisted of a 5 minute game, and a no time limit – but record your moves game.

Next week is the ONE HOUR EACH PLAYER game AND you record your game.
The only talking aloud will be to help your opponent write down the moves if they have trouble. You can also ask the Tournament Director Mike for assistance.

Otherwise, real tournament rules apply – no noise and no talking!

Here are the Postings for the Final Round, with the first name listed having White!
Board 1:  Luigi M (2-0)   vs   Eman P (2-0)
Board 2:  Tim P (1-1)  vs  Americo M (1-1)
Board 3:  Marcello M (1-1) vs  Levi S  (1-1 byes)
Board 4:  Andrew O (1-1)   vs   Luca M  (1-1)
Board 5:  Anton B (1-1)   vs  Garrett S  (1-1 byes)
Board 6:  Maxim N (0-2)  vs Julius B (0-2)

Parings may change due to absenteeism.

Thanks to Terry G for helping out with chess notation training – and a little game training after the tournament.

We are all looking forward to next week already!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another Big Night at LCCC and In-house Tournament Practice Starting

Twenty-nine players – including two new ones – showed up to enjoy some league play, casual play and some chess lessons.

The two new players are Paul M and David P. Paul is also a member of the Westland Chess Club and Canton Chess Club. David is the older brother of Tim. Welcome both of you!

Some new action is planned for the next few weeks of meetings. There is some interest in getting our younger members involved in tournament chess in the state of Michigan.

Starting next week, Mike N will run some tournaments style games in order to teach our young players how to record games, use and manage the chess clock and standard chess etiquette.

Mike will send out some emails and make some phone calls to see how many players will participate. Even if they do not want to attempt tournament chess outside the club, the lessons will still be worth it.

Please leave a comment on the blog or email either club address to register your child (or register yourself) for these events at the club!

And the new Club League Standings look like this:

Team 4 – Ken T, Terry G, Marcello L – 14 points
Team 1 – Matt T, Tom H, Scott A – 12 points
Team 2 – Aaron J, Mike K, Luigi L – 12 points
Team 5 – Mike N, Trent D, Dale K – 9 points
Team 3 – Scott M, Steven H, Americo L – 5 points
Team 6 – Don J, Ken L, Elliot K – 2 points

December 10th – Team 1 vs Team 5, Team 6 vs Team 3 and Team 2 vs Team 4

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jason's Lesson Corner - End Burnout! part 1

Jason graciously gives Mike N advice on how to get out of his 'chess burnout'!

If the joy has gone out of your game, and you're dropping pieces right and left, it might be time to “Re-Access Your Chess”, as IM Jeremy Silman chose as the title of his well received book.

GM Viktor Kortchnoi once remarked that one does not play "understands" chess. It could be that it's your understanding of the game at a fundamental level that needs an overhaul. To improve, IMHO you first have to be brutally honest with yourself and really commit to scrubbing your play of any biases, bad habits, and misconceptions about chess. Then you have to fill in the holes with correct knowledge and a ton of practical playing experience to reinforce that knowledge until it becomes second-nature. This is where I fall down since I just cannot commit that time to go higher now.

But assuming that you do have the time, energy and will, ask yourself how frequently you're doing these things in your games:

1. Making bad minor piece trades
One skill that I've noticed that separates masters from amateurs is their knowledge of the relative value of bishops vs. knights: when one is better or worse and how to bring about positions favorable to one or the other. Whether a bishop is better than a knight or vice versa is function of the pawn structure. Having an open center, multiple "pawn islands" ,and/or pawns on both flanks favors the bishop, while having a blocked center or pawns all on one flank favors the knight. It is absolutely wrong to always favor bishops over knights, and trading them indiscriminately without regard to pawn structure and king placement is a sure-fire way to lose against a stronger opponent.

2. Neglecting development (often for winning dubious material)
Watch GM games... GMs almost without exception (OK.. there are some greedy ones who tempt fate) will not grab minor material (e.g. a pawn or two) for the sake of falling behind in development and losing the initiative. That's a sucker's bet, and they won't do it. This reluctance to not grab material can be used as a weapon in and of itself in the form of the "positional pawn sacrifice". Here a master will offer a pawn (a relatively small investment when there are lots of pieces still on the board) for the sake of disrupting his opponent's development, his piece coordination, or to break up his opponent's pawn structure into attack-able chunks.

3. Giving up control of the center
Probably one of the most over-mentioned maxims in chess without a clear explanation of why it's important, control of the center (or lack thereof) has a lasting influence on the course of all games. Knowledge of central pawn structures will improve your understanding of where pieces belong in relation to them, and this will in turn lead to better middle game planning. Giving up control of the center means that you directly attack less than half the real estate of d4, d5, e4, e5 with pawns. If you're giving your opponent a majority of pawn controlled central squares, your game will be cramped, your pieces will lack maneuvering room, and you will not be able to coordinate attack and defense on both wings. There is a reason why 1. ... d5 and 1. .. e5 are the most logical replies to 1. d4 and 1. e4 respectively: they fight for the center immediately and in equal measure. Making pawn captures away from the central squares is the most common way to give up the center, and though it is generally against principle, there are positions where it is a viable strategy (e.g. Queens Gambit Accepted).

More to come!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Attendance Record for LCCC – 31 players!

Chess season is upon us and the place to be is the Livingston County Chess Club!

It was our league night and that certainly helped. But the draw is our perfect playing conditions, our vast array of players of all ages and skill levels and the really friendly atmosphere.

We also had Ladder Tournament play tonight. Maxim N, Dave S and Luca M win their matches. Congratulations to them.

Other action included many casual games and Jason M even went over a few tournament games and helped some of our younger players with lessons.

Just for our readers information; your humble blogger should be able to post more articles.

Jason M will provide some great lessons and review of games played. Thanks Jason!

Also, with Christmas coming, I will be doing some reviews of chess sets and products, and the places you can buy them!

Other news from the club and our websites, Mike K, our webmaster will be starting a Chess Forum on the website!

And, I will be checking into a tournament for our younger players to participate in – probably in January or February.  LCCC will of course offer practice BEFORE the tournament, on using a chess clock, writing chess moves down, and general chess tournament etiquette.

Lots of great stuff happening at LCCC. Please stop by and be a part of it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fourteen on Hand This Monday

Chess exhaustion, some illness and some work commitments kept the attendees to a little less than usual, but it still was a fun night of chess.

The players played over some of the tourney games that were played over the weekend. That was an informative and fun time.

Terry G and Mike N gave some lessons, exercises and "chess homework" to some of the players.

One ladder game was played with Don J winning in a wild affair.

Just a note, lots of ladder games need to be played soon or the challenge comes down. The problem has been the "challengee" has not been present enough to claim a win from the challenger, so the challenge just goes away allowing challenges by other players.

If you have a challenge posted, so up and play it. If you don't sign up next week. It's a lot of fun and a great way to meet everyone at the club "over the board".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

LCCC Finishes Just Out of the Prizes - But With a Plus Score at the MI Chess Festival

IM Irina Krush was there!
We started the final day with a bang, but ended it with a fizzle.

Ken T did win his game late Saturday to give LCCC an 8-4-3 record going into the final day. Everyone had a chance for prizes except for Mike N. So hopes were high at the start of the 4th round.

Don J won quickly, but Vince V lost.
Mike N had yet another draw after making time control.
Then John R and Ken T both won to really give us all a boost!

So, moving into the final round, LCCC is an impressive 11-5-4!
Don J, John R and Ken T still all have a shot at bling!
Here we go!

Mike N loses a pawn in the center but finds a bishop sac and a forced perpetual check to earn yet another draw in just 22 moves. Mike N, despite never winning a game, with his draws he will pick up rating points as everyone he played had a much higher rating than he did. Now to watch the rest do battle!

Vince V may have lost motivation since he was out of the running - and according to Vince "just didn't have it" - and lost. Well, we still have our three prize chasers out there.

Don J lost a heart breaker! Worse than he feared as Fritz showed a forced win for him three moves before he lost! Ouch. But Don had a good showing and gained valuable tourney experience.

Ken T. was under an intense king side attack and had to lose an exchange to relieve the pressure. It was not enough as he slowly got squeezed into a lost position.

John R fought to the very end, but lost an endgame to close it out.

LCCC finished 11-9-5.
Ken T     3-1-1
Don J      3-2-0
John R    3-2-0
Vince V  2-3-0
Mike N   0-1-4

A good showing and a lot of fun! We watched grandmaster games, and had some lunch and laughs with our fellow LCCC'ers.

Hopefully some more of you can join us on our next tournament excursion!

LCCC Still a Force on Day 2 of the Michigan Chess Festival

Our 3-0-1 record went to 3-0-2 as Ken T joined the tourney on Saturday and drew his first round game.

Round 2 did not start out so well for LCCC, as Mike N changed his opening strategy in mid opening and got himself boxed in. That turned into a loss.
Vince V made a costly blunder to lose his game.
Don J and Ken T got some revenge for LCCC with two wins.
John R lost on time.

So at the end of round 2 LCCC stood at 5-3-2.

Round 3 started late as usual for a MCA tourney, but Vince V and John R both got quick wins!
Don J lost for the first time and Mike N. settled for a draw in a very tough looking endgame.

At this writing, Ken T game result was no known, but it looked promising.

LCCC stands at 7-4-3 and the final round starts at 10am tomorrow. Come on by and root your club members on!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

LCCC Team Has a Great 1st Round!

Four LCCC'ers played in the Friday first round of the Michigan Chess Festival being held at the Metropolitan Hotel in Troy, MI.

Don J started the rout with a win.
That was followed closely by a John R victory.
Then Vince V's opponent resigned and a first round plus score on the first night of action was locked up.

That left Mike N, who managed to hold his position to a draw against a player rated 260 points higher than him.

So, 3 - 0 - 1 for the first round! Down right impressive.

Ken T will play three games tomorrow and Don J, Vince V, John R, and Mike N two each.

We will see how it goes. But LCCC is off to a fine start in the biggest tourney of the year in Michigan!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2nd Annual Chess Festival Starts Tomorrow!

Just a reminder to stop out to Troy, Michigan at the Metropolitan Hotel this weekend for the biggest tournament held in Michigan.

Many grandmasters, international masters and masters will be on hand!

Chess equipment and books will be on sale also.

Come by and support your LCCC contingent.