14 September, 2016

"Truth, beauty and annihilation"

An interesting read from Guardian columnist Stephen Moss concerning his middle-age quest to "to see if playing better chess would make me a better person."


Coincidently, this weekend I had just bought the latest copy of "Chess'' the British Chess magazine , which also had a long interview with him about the same subject.

That made for a interesting read, so the addition from the Guardian was appreciated.

Its notable that his addition to "if it would make me a better person" is "I was unprepared for the pain of defeat", so you just know this will be a warts and all description of what it feels like to be an enthusiastic amateur !

In fact, the article is more concerned with what chess can give you, to help in your life, rather than games and analysis, which makes it more of general interest.

Moss makes some very good observations. 

For example, I am sure I fall into his category of players who played at ( or even for ) school, and achieved moderate success, but then dropped it for adventures in real life, until returning much later in life.

The internet makes this return easier for sure, since you don't need visit a club, and can play as anonymously as you like, but eventually you need to get out to play real people, and experience the more personal aspects of the game.

He has written a book on his experiences, called 'The Rookie', and on the basis of what I have read so far, I am certain it will be a worthwhile read.



24 July, 2016

Upgrading

I upgraded to Windows 10 this weekend.

For reasons of not wanting to be at the 'bleeding edge' of technology on the machine that I use for nearly all my personal computing activity ( although I'm sure many would argue that Windows 10 is nowhere near that state ), I had held off until almost the last minute.

Agreed, I had already installed Win10 on an older laptop without issues.

That laptop is defying the last technician who repaired it : still working ( the CPU has lost a large part of its heat-protective coating, apparently, and "it's only a matter of time" ) but that's understandable, since I barely use it apart from switching it on to ensure it updates regularly. 

I already took most of my data from it and have already backed it up obsessively, as one does. No doubt, I will forget which backup is the latest and holds most information if I ever need to get at the data.

However, back to the main upgrade, and a flawless install process. 

It took about 90 minutes and I only had to click a few times, mainly to say "no" to sharing lots of things with Microsoft and/or the world's applications that apparently want to use my camera and microphone, amongst other things !

So far all my chess software ( now "apps "! ) works, but I expected nothing more since they all worked on Win7 and Win8.1 as well. 

Even my old Convekta software ( from the 80s or 90s ? ) remains in working order, along with the more modern Aquarium, although frighteningly that is already 2 years out-of-date, and still has the tendency to freeze when I try to exit.

Some of them ( Chess Position Trainer in particular ) seem to start quicker, but generally they just work, and I am happy with that.

The only issues I've come across were that my browser switched back to Google as the default search engine ( easily corrected back to Duck Duck Go ) and quite a few apps don't show up in the "All Apps" list, which is annoying.

This means that I cannot set my default browser to anything but Edge or IE. I use Opera it as my main browser, but it just cannot be selected  : very frustrating ! 

Same for a few others.  

For example, I use Dasher for playing chess on ICC, and it doesn't exist as an app, so its not showing up in "All Apps" although it does appear when I search.

Irritating, but not terminal. Doubtless, some intensive internet searching will suggest some ( read, many :) solutions, but I will leave that for now ( although if anyone has the solution....? ).

So far, I'd put myself in the 'happy with Win10' crowd since it does what I want in an effective way and without any major issues. Additionally, having installed it, I can always revert to Win8.1 within a month, yet still qualify for the 'free' Win10 upgrade, which is re-assuring.

I will note that it doesn't start up as quickly as Win8.1, or at least that's my impression. Maybe it just needs a few re-starts and general use until it settles down. 

Anyway, its a tick on my virtual check list that indicates I have secured a future-proof operating system ( although still behind my aged mother who upgraded about 10 months ago ! ) and can look to fill in the ticks on a few more interesting boxes on that list now.




20 July, 2016

Frustration

The time elapsed since the last post just shows me that I have been tied up too closely with work issues.  

What chess I played has revealed that I really need to pay attention to tactics, as I miss them far too often.

I reach decent positions, am not sure how to progress ( often my opponent is in the same slippery place ) then miss a tactic and spiral downhill afterwards.

Here's a typical missed opportunity, easy to spot when shown as an exercise, but easy for me to miss with a time-constraint.


White to play

The other area is endgames (or maybe its calculation in endgames).

Here I am, played a nice series of exchanges to go a pawn up, but play the wrong move, and give the game away.

Equally, this could be classified as over-aggressive play, or over-estimating an advantage and trying to take more than the situation actually gives ?

Black to play
However it should be classified, it frustrates me to lose in such situations, but the only way correct this is to put in the effort, and plainly, I need to make the time available to do this. 

Question is, will I ?  


25 March, 2016

A London Mate

I'm sure I've mentioned to all my avid fans that I  play the "London System". 

No?  Oh, well, I do, simply because it requires little maintenance, absolves me having to play 1.e4 and deal with the Sicilian fanatics and enables me to reach the middlegame relatively intact, if rarely with the advantage that is supposed to be expected with playing White.

Although often touted as a 'boring opening', leading to many draws, like any opening, it has enough in it to gain quick wins, often with the 'Greek gift' type of attack.  

However, I think the below is an unusual type of mate to be revealed by this particular opening , to say the least.

I admit, gained with a lot of ( I assume unwitting ) help from Black, and I doubt I would ever see this outside of blitz. 

Really, this was "trickery" against someone who must be completely naive in chess, to allow the manuoevre Nd2-b3-c5 plus Bb5, when his king was sitting at d2.

I certainly don't feel guilty : sometimes satisfaction is its own entertainment.

11. Nc5#






21 February, 2016

Material or Mate ?


One thing I enjoy about a blitz game are those occassions when one side has the upper hand, but the other has an immediate riposte, like some "sword of Damocles",  hanging over his opponent.

Usually, this is heightened by the time factor : the attacking side could win easily with enough time to think, but that's the problem !

Here's an example from recent play.

Black is more than ahead in material, but it seems like his Knight is pinned to his Queen, and a lowly pawn is about to regain the piece.

But is there a simple way out ? 

Has Black just lost a piece ?
Yes, there is !  In fact more than one, but the Queen is the better piece to use, and 20...Qc5+ forces Kh1 ( of course, Kf1 is mate with Qf2 ).

20..Qc5+ 
After Kh1, the Knight moves in for a check, forcing Kg1 allowing Knight takes Queen, and prompting a resignation.

21...Nf2+ 22. Kh8  : Mate in 3

However, 22...Nxg4 is not the best move, though of course it crushes White's resolve and the game is over.  

There is a much quicker and more elegant mate in 3, and the clue is in a previous post, if you need it !


14 February, 2016

T67 Openings

Below, the top 10 Openings for T67

4 King pawn, 4 Queen pawn, and 2 others, Dutch and English.

Hardly much of a change over the seasons in major openings played, with the split between King- and Queen-pawn, much the same as before, even the percentage is close, 51% for King's Pawn this season,compared to 53% : not  a significant change.

In fact, this is effectively the same as T66, with a switch of ranking between the Spanish Game/Ruy Lopez and the Indian/Torre Attack, and only by 1 game, plus the Réti loses out to the Dutch ( but since the Réti  is often played as a transpositional opening, its hard to tell what the intended opening was :)

Oddest opening, at least from my view, is 1.e3, occurring 4 times.

Appropriately, White won only 1 of these games ( and that was via a blatant Black blunder), losing 2 and drawing the other.

Only 6 games in the King's Gambit, with a slight edge to White, but no Falkbeer Counter-Gambit this time around.

Eleven games played with less than 10 moves, but no traps, just over-looked tactics.

Longest game : 124 moves and decided by an unfortunate mistake by the knight-less side to leave a King, Knight and Pawns vs King and Pawns ending, which was played well on both sides until, as would seem inevitable, the knight endured at the end.  

However,  could it have been saved by Black at the 111th move ? 


Black to play
Probably due to tiredness or time-trouble, Black played a2+,leading to a loss. 

What should Black play to give himself a good chance of a draw ?



                           T67 Top 10 Played Openings

B20-B99Sicilian 119 (15%)
C00-C19French Defence 70 (9%) 
D00-D05Queen's Pawn ( General ) 66 (9 %)
A10-A39English  52 (7%)
D30-D69 Queen's Gambit Declined45 ( 6.0 % )
B10-B19Caro-Kann41 (5.3 % )
C60-C99Indian & Torre Attack40 (5 %)
A45-A50Spanish Game39 (5 %) 
A80-A99Dutch23 ( 3 % )
E60-E99King's Indian  28 ( 3.77 % )

All games were re-indexed by ECO code using Chess Assistant 11,. 

The Opening classification ranges ( ie grouping ECO codes), I based on those from Chessville (many thanks, although it seems to have disappeared :(

See also T56 Summary,  T55 SummaryT51 Summary,  T50 Summary and T47 SummaryT57-59 Summary , T61 SummaryT62 Summary,  T63 Summary and T66 Summary