Have you ever watched Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween Prank Segement? When they hear the “bad news”, you can see many of the kid’s reactions as if the world is ending.
We all have bad days, bad games, or something that doesn’t go our way. These things happen to anyone. But when it happens to us, we feel the world is dropping on us.
My USCL game
I played a couple local tournaments in Atlanta in 2015 as my mini-comeback, and then chatted with the Atlanta Kings team to play in the USCL. My local tournaments had some ups and downs, but they all ended well.
I played two games for the Kings. The first game was a complete whack, I played 1.e4 e6 2. b3?!. Possibly due to too many blitz games at home, I thought this was a good opening choice. Needless to say, I was punished swiftly.
That game didn’t bother me too much, as I was more in a ‘let’s give this thing a try’ mood. And my game was not the determining factor for the team. But after this game, I got serious, and wanted to contribute more for the team.
Before the next game, I prepared for the opening, which was something I haven’t done since 2007.
The game was played on a Wednesday night. I had a normal work day, and then drove over 45 minutes to the playing site, not unusual for Atlanta traffic. A little tired, but excited to play.
The game took close to three hours, I got to use what I had prepared, and it was up-and-down until we traded queens.
Around move 40, the feeling of ‘all that work is gone’ started to sink in. It felt like déjà vu again. I resigned soon after.
We lost the match 1.5-2.5. And yes, my game mattered a lot.
The drive back home didn’t take 45 minutes, but it felt much longer, because of my mood.
I run my first Spartan competition a week after the game, which was physically hard and painful. But mentally I gained more perspective.
While jumping over each hurdle, I knew I joined this competition as a choice. Whereas many people in the world are running in much worse conditions to escape.
My thoughts became broader, and I realized a bad game, or a bad day is really nothing compared to many tough battles in the world.
Chess is just one example. I’ve had unsatisfied school experiences, bad job interviews, or even just an annoying drive that typically takes 10 minutes turned into an hour due to road constructions (happened to me this week).
At that moment, it’s hard to swallow. But by practicing to look at the big picture, I feel more at ease, and whatever is bothering me is not much of a problem.
So the next time you have a tough day: Please try to do the following
Look at the Sky.
Enjoy the Ride.
Step Out from the problem.
Happy Holidays! And I hope 2018 will be the best year yet for you.
This is one of the most popular questions from chess parents.
The short answer:
A coach should provide
Knowledge Transfer (KT) – Showing a new player from basic tactics (fork, pins, etc.) to advanced strategies (prophylactics, piece activity, etc.).
Habit Transfer (HT) – Ask students what s/he does to study and improve in chess, then make further suggestions.
Psychological Preparation – Help students to acquaint the ups and downs of winning and losing.
Now the longer version.
1) Knowledge Transfer (KT)
In the old days, this is a chess coach’s main job. But that has changed in our information-world today. What Bobby Fischer had to search in Soviet-language chess books can be found online in a couple of mouse clicks today.
If you want to learn Knight and Bishop checkmate 20 years ago, your coach will need to setup a specialized training session. Then you and other students will practice for half a day until it is mastered.
In today’s world, a five-years old student can open Google Chrome and type in Knight and Bishop mate and watch the video. Then launch Stockfish, play against the the engine for a few games, and practice until s/he becomes very confident.
Chess coach can still help for (KT), as there are 100s or more chess concepts. The coach’s role for KT is to point out specific focus based on each student’s need, so students are not drown into the sea of information.
Pure Knowledge Transfer is being commoditized. Technology such as AI may one day organize all the themes in chess. Hence, coaches need to provide value in two other aspects.
2) Habit Transfer (HT)
In most of our work-place or schools, we have heard of KT, however, rarely had I hear about HT.
I believe that needs to be changed. Google can provide 80%+ of KT today, but it is not ready (or at least not as competent) in telling you what you should work on yet.
HT is a quest for a student to become a life-long learner. And a coach is the ‘tour guide’ to provide encouragement, focus, and support to help the student build and maintain the desire to learn more in chess.
3) Psychology Preparation
Experience and feelings of playing chess. A coach has stories based on his/her experiences from playing chess.
Psychology preparation is the furthest from being automated by a machine.
A coach will LISTEN to a student describe his/her feeling and thinking from a game or a tournament. Then discuss together and tell stories from previous experiences or encounters to help student build psychological muscles for chess.
I hope this helps. Feel free to provide comments, I’m always happy to have an informative discussion on this broad topic.
Mikhail Botvinnik, legendary world champion and a pioneer of computer chess, once said “chess is the art of analysis.” Indeed, anyone who plays the game long enough will see that it is a sempiternal exercise in examination and re-examination. By examining one’s own games and those of other players and masters, you can begin to see patterns or discover better moves. Quality analysis and the ability to analyze are essential for any player to grow and become a strong competitor. And now with incredible advancements in technology and the seemingly endless amount of options and platforms to find digital chess analysis, there is an unprecedented amount of information available. So, considering all the information above, where do you start?
If you are newer to the game, the best analysis would be a one on one with a coach or an experienced player. While having a computer program analyze your game has many advantages, it is a bit too much information for someone new to the game and will not help you develop the same way a human can. Much like a soccer coach watching video after a game and going over it with their team, a trained and experienced eye can spot mistakes or opportunities you may otherwise overlook. For instance, when I first started playing my coach noted that I was very inconsistent with developing my minor pieces early in the game. By doing this I was giving away tempi and crippling my attack. This observation would not be noted if I simply used a computer to show blunders and best moves. The best way I can put it is that a human can give you a unique perspective and develop you into a well-rounded player, a computer will build upon this foundation and present other opportunities.
Another way that a coach can help your development is by analyzing well-known games or educational ones with you. My coach recommended analyzing some of Jose Capablanca’s games, games that exemplified what topic or idea he was trying to share with me at that time. I analyzed these games on my own, playing them out on a board then on a computer with and without an analysis engine running. Lastly, my coach and I went over a game together. This comprehensive, well-rounded analysis not only improved my understanding of some core concepts my coach was trying to teach through the game, but also helped my board memory, gave me some new ideas in certain situations, and boosted my confidence in my ability to analyze games. This exercise helped establish a foundation I still use today and will continue to use throughout my career.
Once you have learned how to analyze a game, you could and really should analyze any games you find interesting whether they be yours or someone else’s. First, play through the game a few times on your own to see the flow. Look for any ideas that jump out at you or anything you find noteworthy. This part of the game is a bit of homework, so you really must keep a notebook handy. A fun exercise is to guess the move then compare your decision to that of the other player. When you do this, ask “why was that move picked?” “why that move instead of this one?” “how would I respond to that move?”. This type of methodical and deliberate examination and study will develop your awareness and your understanding even further.
A very popular and tremendously productive way to analyze your play is with an engine. From top level players like Vishy Anand to club players, this is a common practice and in today’s competitive environment, an absolute necessity. The number of engines out there and the millions of games recorded is staggering. Do you want to see what your favorite player’s most successful opening is? It’s there. What percentage of games with the c4 “English” opening, on average, end with a win for white? That information is there too. Computer analysis can be a double-edged sword for the inexperienced or unguided, however. Without a sound understanding of the games fundamentals and mechanics, you can easily fall down a rabbit hole and be quickly misdirected. Personally, I suggest holding off on computer analysis until it is recommended to you by your coach or a trusted, experienced player. Used in conjunction with coaching and guidance, this technology is indeed a very powerful analytical tool that will certainly bring your play to the next level.
So where should you begin? To get started, pick a game, any game. This game can be one of your own or just one your find interesting. I strongly recommend you play through it a few times on a board, preferably one with algebraic coordinates to make following or adjusting notation easier. The reason I recommend a board is the distinct view and feel you gain. You can walk around the board or view it from angles that you cannot from a static 2d board. It may sound silly, but I gain much perspective this way and find it notably more productive than just playing on my laptop. If available, walk through the match a few times with another player or a coach. This can bring up some dialogue or showcase ideas you may not have reached on your own. For as much time as we spend buried in our phones, books, or computers, chess is after all a social game and one that generates conversation.
Once you have played through the match a few times from both sides of the board, either create or load up a PGN of the game.
I use chess.com and its powerful Stockfish engine to analyze games. This one tool offers so much information it is without equal on many levels. 1. You can see what advantage is to whom with a basic black and white bar, essentially a tug of war. 2. You can see what moves are most commonly played and what their outcomes are. You can explore other options for certain situations or identify blunders. In the example below, I have highlighted these features on move 7 of a recent game. I am playing as black here. You can see I have a 1.64 advantage (shows as -1.64 when you are playing as black). You can also see a few moves and what advantage they would gain or leave.
I hope you now see the options available to you and feel inspired to dive in and analyze this beautiful game. There has truly never been a better time to be a chess player with all the resources and powerful tools available, many for free. A great option I truly cannot recommend enough is a high-quality analysis right here on Chess^Summit. Our dedicated and skilled team will give you an expert analysis to help you develop absolutely free.
My costliest defeat was against GM Dmitry Gurevich at the North American Open (NAO) in 2006. And I realized that was the case after I scanned through the cross-table one last time after I resigned.
As I marked the result, I realized a draw could have gotten me a great U2450 prize and a spot to the U.S. Championship, and a win would gave me the outright first U2450. But all the ‘could haves’ turned into a painful loss.
I had a great year in 2006. Winning the Georgia State Championship and a few other tournaments in Atlanta. I also got my peak rating at 2347.
At the end of the year, I played at the NAO again, my favorite tourney, at least result wise. My first GM scalp was against the late Walter Browne at NAO. I’ve also won the U2300/2450 prize in the Open section twice.
This time, things continued to go my way. After getting a good start, I was paired against Dmitry in the last round. I had a draw and a loss against him before, but this is the first time I got the white piece.
I played my favorite opening, Sozin, and got a position I wanted. I was attacking, putting pressures constantly.
In the position above, 28. Rxe7 would have netted a perpetual check, and here is the complete game with the above mentioned variation.
The game continued, Dmitry found a way to trade queens to limit my attack. But I still got a good endgame position.
As we approach the first time control, my old headache of time trouble kicked in. This is the problem of INDECISIVENESS, and I’ll have much more to say about this topic in another post.
I knew I could have traded the bishop and go for 3 pawns against 3 pawns on the opposite sides. For some reason, I dismissed it.
Then, he had a powerful pin on my bishop, and things started to go from bad to worse until the end where he had three pawns against my double a-pawns, when I resigned.
That was it.
At the time, I didn’t think too much, but after I stopped playing chess, this game often crossed my mind while dealing with missed opportunities.
The reason I like chess and many other games is that no matter how bad a defeat was, I know I can ALWAYS start a new game.
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In my experience, Pittsburgh is one of the most dangerous cities to play chess. Unlike other metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh isn’t dominated by young talent, but rather a class of well-seasoned veterans, consistently underrated yet somehow consistently over-performing. Opening innovation isn’t enough to win against these guys – everything needs to go perfectly. Hotbeds for chess around the city like the Pittsburgh Chess Club continuously pair the city’s best against each other, making a logjam in the chase for rating points. Want to boost that rating in the Steel City? Good luck!
That brings us to the 20th Fred Sorensen Memorial. A Tuesday night ladder at the Pittsburgh Chess Club, this event marks the first litmus test to see who’s playing well going into the fall. With college players returning from the summer to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, it’s more important now more than ever to be in form.
Where was I in all this? Frustratingly enough, my course load this semester has forced me to keep my eyes off the chess board, and I’ve decided to sideline myself for a few weeks from tournament play until my school schedule becomes more manageable. Somehow that found me to be a tournament director of this event, and thus the inspiration of this project. Knowing that I have played a vast majority of players in the field, I’m hoping that with these tournament reports I can share my insights throughout the event, as well as give a glimpse as to why chess in Pittsburgh is so strong.
And with that hefty introduction, let’s take a look at some chess!
These ladders can be long. With the tournament lasting six weeks, I’ve always believed that momentum is the key to winning. For the strongest players in the field, that means showing their class and effortlessly moving into the second round unscathed on opening night.
Easier said than done! Even with the top players paired against the bottom half of the field, that still pitted roughly 1800 rated players against National Masters. Who would put up resistance?
Second seed NM Nabil Feliachi arguably had the best win of the day:
Unaware of the of the impending attack, Finn chose 1. f4? to kick Black’s knight off of e5. However, after Nabil chucked 1…c4!, White must have realized he was lost! The game continued 2. Qe1 Nd3 3. Qg3 f6 4. bxc4 Qf2+! (click here for web player), and with the trapped bishop on g5, Nabil won material and the game.
Nabil wasn’t alone in producing a masterclass win. Chip Kraft launched his e-pawn and busted Black in a Catalan, and the youngest (Evan Park) as well as one of the oldest (Vassil Prokhov) competitors both cruised to nice tactical finishes. Candidate Master Melih Özbek (Congrats on the recent PhD) met some resistance early, but methodically earned his point.
Overcoming the First Test
Of course, winning every game with ease is unrealistic, and there were a fair number of close calls on opening night. Having played in this field several times, I must admit that has more to do with the growing strength and resilience of the 1300-1600 rated players in Pittsburgh. There have been quite a few events here where I’ve felt that a win against a 1400 was much harder to come by than a win against an opponent 400 points stronger! They simply aren’t afraid to play slightly worse positions.
Playing Black, National Master Franklin Chen had to take some risks to get an advantage from a symmetrical pawn structure to win. Paul Cantalupo (who I played recently) got an advantage early, but couldn’t convert his attack and had to settle for a draw, a result which proved to be the only upset of the day.
That being said, no one danced on a knife’s edge more than Michael Kostyak who managed to convert the following position:
Playing for the 500 point upset, Ivry plopped a quick tactic on the board: 35. Qf8+ Kh5 36. g4+ Kh4 37. gxf5. Thinking he had won a piece, Ivry was in for Caissa’s worst lesson when Michael played 37… Kh3!!, prompting immediate resignation.
White cannot stop mate on both g1 and g2, and thus the game was over. Even worse was that 37. Qg8! was the winning blow White needed to win the game. Chess is truly a cruel game.
Battle on Board 1
The top seed and my Pittsburgh Chess League teammate, Kevin Carl, had the toughest pairing of the night in his match-up with Walter Kennedy. Walter is a solid player, and at his best, is a much stronger player than what his 1800 rating suggests.
Kevin ventured into the Catalan, and opted to give Black hanging pawns. All seemed to be in the balance until he dropped the howler 19. Qb2?, offering Black a tactical shot:
As he told me after the game, he immediately realized that he had missed the undermining move, 19…g5!, winning a piece. Luckily for him, Black continued with 19…Rfe8, and after an immediate 20. Nd3, the position returned to rough equality and the plot progressed.
Black actually had built a slight edge when Kevin played 26. Qf5:
In what proved to be the critical moment, the game turned on its head when Walter essayed the move 26…Qe7? allowing 27. Rxd4! g6 28. Qh3, dropping a pawn thanks to the pressure on c8.
26…Ne4! could have proven to be something here, as Kevin would have to combat the knight’s route to c3. Black had his chance.
With the first round in the books, eight players opened the Fred Sorensen Memorial with a win, meaning that the tournament’s toughest games start this Tuesday! A lot of interesting games this round, and certainly a lot more to be looking forward to. Hard to say if anyone stands out as the clear favorite after this round, but that’s why there are six!
I’ll be posting the next report in two weeks, following the conclusion of Round 3!
I am really excited about the 2017 FIDE World Cup. As you know, the Chess^Summit World Cup Sweepstakes is open and comes to a close on Sunday, September 3rd. There are a lot of really cool prizes up for grabs – Chessable memberships, ChessOpeningsExplained memberships, free lessons, and so much more!
In this video, I give you an insider look into Chessable and ChessOpeningsExplained, as well as what my thoughts are on the World Cup. Anyone else have Peter Svidler making a repeat appearance in the final? Enjoy!