Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Illinois Class

I managed to finish "Win with the London System" over the 4th of July weekend and made it about a third of the way into "Play the London System" before leaving for Chicago to play in the Illinois Class July 15-17th.

I decided to play the 3 day schedule so that the time control for all games would be 40/2 Game/60. My first game Friday night was against another 1800 player and see sawed back and forth. In the waning seconds of the first time control I saw the win and mate (or his loss of queen) and as I reached out to play my move he called time. I should know better than to get into time trouble but seeing as how I had just won my previous Wednesday's club game from a losing postion due to my opponent's time trouble it's just another example of "chess fate."

I didn't sleep well that night playing over the winning combination time and time again in my head. It never changed. I play Rf2 forcing his queen off the second rank. The queen has to retreat to the first rank to cover bank rank mate. I play h3xg2 check forcing his king on h1 to g1. I then play Rf1 double check from the Queen on d4 and rook on f1 forcing Kxg2 when RxQ leaves me a Queen up with mate to follow shortly.

My 2nd round game found me paired up against a 1940 player who had also lost in the first round. I played the London against his King's Indian and sacked a rook on h5 for knight and pawn. I threw another bishop into the fire for a dangerous attack down the h file. All my pieces were in play with his a8 rook sitting idle. However his defense held and I was just down material. Off to an 0-2 start. At that point being out of the running I signed up for byes in rounds 3 and 5 spending some quality time with my parents and friends. I played a 1700 player in round 4 Sunday morning and drew making me .5-2.5 for actual games played although this only cost me 27 rating points.

My third round opponent is halfway down the aisle in the orange shirt next to the standing man in the blue.

I hope to analyze my games from this event. I'm disappointed to have fared so poorly against like rated competition. I definitely want to play some more slower time control class events to see if I truly belong in the "A" ranks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Books Arrived!

I received Play the London and Chess Blueprints today. On first glance, I'm very pleased with these selections. As usual I've read and played through the introductions in both. Both authors claim to aim for the club player (1400-2000)although the author of Chess Blueprints perhaps has slightly unrealistic hopes that the club player will spend an hour a day per puzzle working out all the details before reviewing the solution.

I'm hoping to report back after the holiday weekend on my progress in these books.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Books, Books and a ratings bump.

Studying and playing has kept me away from posting. I have picked up a number of books lately including Win with the London System, Grandmaster Chess Strategy, Sacking the Citadel, Analyse your Chess, Scandinavian Defense: The Dynamic 3...Qd6, Judith Polgar The Princess of Chess, Calculate like a Grandmaster, The Modern Scandinavian, and currently winging their way to me now Play the London System and Chess Blueprints.

As usual, I've skimmed the first 10-15 pages of most of these and put them in the stack. A couple of exceptions are Win with the London System where I'm 100+ pages in, and Sacking the Citadel which I received most recently and I'm 45+ pages in.

I'm current on Chess Life magazine through the June issue.

I've managed to play in several one day events in addition to the club swisses and I've coaxed my rating up to 1856.

I'll try to go into more detail and make shorter, more frequent posts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book review: Improve Your Chess at any Age

Improve your Chess at any Age authored by Andres D. Hortillosa

I recently found this book at half-priced books for eight bucks and decided to give it a shot. The reviews on Amazon were split with either 5 stars or 1 star so it seems to be a love it or hate it type of book. I bought the book on February 17th and finished it on February 26th covering the 172 pages in 10 days which is fast for me. I found the author's style to be engaging and enjoyed the stories and the games. The major complaint in other reviews seemed to revolve around the fact that the author is merely a "club" player and that his system must not work because he himself has not shown significant ratings improvement over the last several years.

If I had bought the book based on the title and paid full price I might feel like it was a poor value especially if I expected a cure-all to my chess. Having plateaued at roughly 1700 give or take 100 points over the last 30 years I felt a certain sympatico for what the author was going through and trying to convey to the reader.  The system is nothing more then a multistep thought process (a reminder, if you will) to try to eliminate blunders and/or recognize opportunities. It really falls into the nothing new under the sun category for me with his steps laid out as follows:

1. Reconnaissance of the position to gather key data elements.
2. Search for specific threats.
3. Rank the severity of the threats.
4. Focus your responses against the threat with the highest degree of harm if ignored or not prevented.
5. Search for candidate moves.
6. Execute the move in your head.
7. Conduct a post reconnaissance of the position after the move is mentally executed.
8. If post-recon yields a problem repeat steps 5-7 until a safe/correct move is found.

He then covers a variety of his games or game fragements from recent events to call attention to specific examples of his system. I didn't necessarily find any of this convincing but enjoyed seeing someone who is a regular "Joe" discuss the day-to-day concerns of the amateur tournament player.

I certainly didn't feel it was a waste of time and probably picked up a few hints and tips along the way. Overall it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so a day going through book and the games. The games themselves are annotated mainly in prose with breezy analysis that is easy to work through. You won't get lost in the tree of having to play through three branches and six sub-branches of detailed analysis after every move. It was also nice to be able to correctly "pick" the upcoming moves of the games (even the mistakes!?)versus some of the grandmaster games where I don't have a clue as to why the move was chosen. If you can find this book in the bargain bin give it a whirl!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January--the busiest chess month!

Lots of activity over the last few weeks. I have played 4 games in the GCC Swiss, 4 games (and a bye) in the Austin Chess Club Championship (Jan 7-9), 3 games at the Austin Kids tourney (Jan 15), and 3 games at the Temple Open (Jan 22). End result was a rating swing of a whopping 8 points starting the month at 1741 and ending at 1749.

I finished the December issue of Chess Life back in December and starting Jacob Aagaard's "Excelling at Chess" the 2002 book of the year. I had recently covered John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and loved the interplay involving GM Aagaard taking issue with some of the premises of Mr. Watson. I also enjoyed the general writing style, and while there were a lot of games to go through, there was also plenty of text to read through. I believe the reviews at Amazon cover it well but I would add that for strong club players between 1600-1900 this is an outstanding book.

Since the Temple Open was the newest tourney venue I've played at I thought I would cover it in some detail. A short 45 minute drive from Georgetown straight north on I35 made the travel easy and the venue easy to find. The Holiday Inn looked relatively new and the facilities were excellent. The tournament was held the same weekend as the Texas Team event up in Dallas but they still had a good turnout of 27 players. I hope they continue as planned with quarterly events as I plan to be a regular participant.

I caught the difficult end of the "Swiss" break getting paired up the first round against Matthew Liu who was rated 2055. I took a real hammering as black in a Caro Kann advance being dead lost after about 12 moves before going on a king walk and resigning on move 24 (9 of black's last 12 moves were with the king). Using very little of the Game\90 time control left me with about 2 1/2 hours till the next round. Matthew was kind enough to go over the game with me in the lobby. I feel I learned at least three good lessons from this debacle.

Matthew playing black in round two

The next round saw me paired down against John De Vries rated 1411 who perplexed me with the seldom seen (for me) Albin counter gambit. Even though I played right into the Albin player's dream trap with the move 4. e3 I was able to pull out win down the road. John and I were able to review this game and consider other options in the post mortem analysis.

Jonathan v. Khoa

The event certainly drew a lot of familiar players from the GCC with the Nguyen family there in force along with the Manions, Vincent, Jonathan, Nate, and myself all having played at the GCC in the past. Twelve of the 27 players had attended a GCC event in the past.

Vince playing white

Steve (upper right) and Dang (lower left)

Nam had a nice tournament picking up 76 rating points in the process.

Jonathan v. Nam

The last round ended with a draw between myself and Chris Chen rated 1690. Chris played 4. Qc2 in the Slav and I was quickly out of book and on my own. However after several exchanges the position was quiet and at the end of a long day we split the point.

Duy v Chris (foregound) Emily v. Nate (background)

Let me express my thanks to the sponsors Forrest Marler and Wayne Sampson for hosting such a wonderful event. I would love to see more players take advantage of playing in a Grand Prix event at such a nice site.