Online Blitz: Yea or Nay?

When this article is published, I will be taking the AP World History test back at school.  Fortunately, this is the last of the AP tests I am taking this year, with AP Computer Science being held the week prior.  In the midst of all this, Supernationals is this upcoming weekend.  With the conflicting timing, I was stripped for preparation time for this tournament.  With the little time I had, I decided that playing online blitz was going to at least get me somewhat prepared for this tournament.  This led me to think about how beneficial of a preparation strategy that online blitz truly is.

While there are definite merits, there can also be unintended negative effects.  We will attempt to examine both sides and come to a conclusion at the end.

We will start by examining the positive effects of playing blitz.  To me, there are a few effects that constitute as beneficial to a player’s game:

  • Improved tactical vision
    • Explanation: If a player’s tactical vision is slow, or he/she finds it hard to spot tactics in general, blitz may be of help.  Blitz requires a player to make fast, accurate moves.  In some positions, there may be a move that could work, but immense calculations would be needed to decide for sure.  Obviously, that time isn’t available in blitz games.  However, the prospects seem decent, so the player makes the move anyway.  Whether the move works out in the end is a different story, but the fact that the player actually saw the move and experimented with it makes the difference.  Continually experimenting with such tactical moves will help the player spot similar moves in real games.  At that point, the time is available to calculate variations and decide whether it is a good move.
  • Openings
    • Explanation: Playing games online can aid opening play if done correctly.  There are two ways to help openings through playing online.  One of these ways is to practice already-known openings.  Of course, one cannot assume that every game will follow the desired path; but, for those that do, the player can play as far as his/her opening knowledge allows, then play out the rest of the game.  Then, the player can load the game into an engine (or whatever tool you use) in order to find an improvement in their own play or how to capitalize on an opponent’s miscue.  The other way for a player to improve opening play is to keep playing games until he/she stumbles upon an opening that is relatively unknown.  This game can then be analyzed to reinforce the depth of knowledge in these unknown openings.  Both of these methods can greatly help to improve opening play for players at any level.
  • Time management
    • Explanation: This is probably the most obvious benefit, and is also the most important.  I know that I play blitz for this benefit myself.  As stated before, blitz requires a player to play fairly quickly, and these have to be safe moves.  In this way, blitz helps by allowing the player to be more confident in his/her ability to play quick moves that improve the position rather than spending a great deal of time trying to find the one best move in each position.  Over the long run, these methods will save a lot of time and put more pressure on the opponent since he/she has the clock on their side for a greater portion of the game, and they may even end up in time trouble.  Playing blitz online can help decrease the average time spent on moves as well since calculations have to be parsed at a faster rate.

While these are all great benefits that could be maximized by spending a lot of time playing blitz, there are also possible downsides that one has to be aware of.  While these reasons are geared slightly more towards inexperienced players, they can apply to anyone of any strength:

  • It can cause players to play too fast
    • Explanation: With playing blitz comes a responsibility, and that responsibility is to make sure that it doesn’t affect your game too   Sometimes blitz can make a player too trigger-happy in terms of moves, which can come back to hurt the player if not enough time is spent on a move.  It is important to clarify that blitz should be used for playing quicker in slow positions that aren’t rich in tactics and require positional improvement and/or allow a player to see tactics quicker – it should not be used to play faster overall and without care.
  • Results can be misjudged
    • Explanation: Despite the practice gained from online play, results are based on very different parameters.  For one, moving pieces using a mouse is very different than moving with hands over a board, and “knocking pieces over” isn’t a thing online.  In addition, many online interfaces now support “premove,” which allows a player to preload a move on the board before the opponent has made his/her move; obviously, that is not allowed over the board.  Lastly, illegal moves aren’t allowed online and waste precious time when the clock is ticking, whereas illegal moves may be played and not spotted in games over the board.  So, it is important to take all of these factors, among others, into account when considering online play as practice for real tournament play.
  • Frustration
    • Explanation: Online chess is notorious for becoming very frustrating when a player loses multiple games in a row; this is only due to the sheer number of games being played a time.  If this occurs, it can completely undermine any possible benefit coming out of the time spent.  In order to avoid this, it is best to only play a few games at a time and focus more time on analyzing the games played rather than binge-playing with no end goal.

So, we’ve examined a few of the pros and cons of playing online to practice for a tournament.  However, there are a few things a player can do to maximize the benefits of playing online.  One of these things is to play with a time control that reflects the time control of the real tournament.  This means playing with the same increment/delay online as the real tournament since all competitive tournaments these days have one or the other.  This will allow the player to be better suited making decisions as they would in a real tournament.  For example, if a player plays with 30-second increment online, but the real tournament is 5-second delay, then the player would be practicing with 30 seconds per move online when they really only have 5 seconds per move over the board (when in time trouble).

Another follow-up question that some people ask is, “At what point does too much blitz become bad for you?”  Well, to give a few examples, too much laughter can cause asphyxiation, too much oxygen can cause hyperventilation, and too much water can make you drown.  Basically, too much of anything is bad.  As discussed earlier, too much blitz can cause one to speed up their game too much, to the point where moves are actually rushed, and mistakes can result.  So, it is best to limit playing online to a few games per session, and spend more time analyzing the played games.

In conclusion, we have examined the pros and cons of blitz, we have discussed the extent to which one should play, and that players should focus on analyzing blitz games in order to receive feedback on the opening phase of the game.  And, as always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Kostya’s Unhinged Thoughts On Why He Crushed The Reykjavik Open

Two weeks ago I traveled to Iceland for the Reykjavik Open for the 2nd year in a row. I repeated this tournament for a few reasons: 1) The tournament was again stacked with grandmasters, including stars like Giri, Andreikin, Jobava, Shirov, Beliavsky, and so on and so forth, making it a great chance to play against amazing players. 2) Iceland is closer to the U.S. than the rest of Europe and is relatively inexpensive to fly to these days. So I had been looking forward to the trip for a little while, this would be my first official tournament as an IM, as FIDE confirmed my title just this past March.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to do all that well. In the past few months I’ve been spending most of my time working, which included teaching after school chess classes, teaching private students, teaching group classes in person, teaching group classes online through Chess University, writing instructional articles for beginners, writing news articles about super-tournaments, recording videos on a variety of topics, and other various projects. What can I say, I’m busy!

The general notion among chess players is that teaching full-time kills your chess, especially if you’re working with beginners. I definitely agree with that perspective to a large extent, it’s very hard to do serious chess work on your own after a day of showing how the knight moves, and saying things like “control the center” over and over again. Apparently it takes more to beat a Grandmaster than just controlling the center.

But I anticipated this problem in advance and had some ideas in mind as to why I might be above the so-called “teaching curse”. For one, a few of my private students are in the 1500-2000 range, which means that in order to prepare lessons for them, I often have to review classic games that I’ve forgotten, or if I’m lucky, discover instructive gems that benefit my own chess. Additionally, I’m often analyzing with my students, and rarely turning on the engine, which (hopefully) keeps my analysis skills sharp. Lastly, I spend a lot of time watching chess commentary–leading up to the tournament I was watching Peter Leko’s commentary of the Grenke Chess Classic, which was filled with absolute chess gold.

And I’m dead serious, Leko’s commentary is worth re-watching in full. In addition to being really good at analysis, obviously, Leko also discusses every opening played in detail, his experience of preparing the lines himself, divulges which novelties he had studied before (that have since been played), and much, much more. He’s also able to more or less read the mind of every player in the hall, and explain exactly which lines they’re calculating, what they’re spending their time on, everything. Since there are lulls in the action, Leko also talks about much more than just the current chess position. Like his experiences of playing against almost every good player of the last 20 years — Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian, Anand, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Morozevich, and I think even Kasparov and Karpov too. Leko talks about all the practical intricacies of what it’s like to be an elite player. How he approaches every part of the game. What it’s like to prepare for a motherf***ng World Championship Match! Sorry but I can’t get over how good it was.

So I wasn’t totally inactive going in, but it felt like it, and my expectations for the tournament were low. I thought that the rust would show and I would bungle a few games, but it wasn’t like that. I kind of crushed it, especially towards the end. I also came up with something interesting to do during the tournament, as the Chess^Summit audience should be fully aware of–I decided to record a post-mortem of every round, win or lose. This was risking to be real embarrassing in case I had a garbage tournament, but I thought it would be a really cool project and fairly unique in the chess YouTube world. Fortunately, Isaac was into the idea and the show was born! But the biggest point of going over each game afterwards was that I felt it would be really good for my chess, I can’t remember the last time I went over my games without Stockfish!

My start was fine, 3/5, three wins against lower rated players (though not without some adventures!) and two ultra-instructive losses to a couple of Grandmasters. In Round 3 I lost to GM Josh Friedel without any chances, and without understanding what I did wrong. That doesn’t happen too often to me! The post-mortem with Josh was invaluable, although as Susan Polgar pointed out on Twitter, it would have been cheaper just to pay him for a private lesson than to fly all the way out to Iceland to learn from him! Fair enough.

In Round 5 I got another lesson, this time against GM Helgi Dam Ziska of the Faroe Islands. We played a very offbeat Open Sicilian (I was Black, unfortunately) where he got the initiative from the opening. I provoked the classic ‘Nd5’ sacrifice and was duly punished.

So halfway through the tournament I hadn’t achieved anything special. But I won my next two games (playing down) with real ease. I mean really clean games. This gave me another crack at a GM, Magesh Panchanathan. This time I was super-solid with White and eventually drew after good defense in a slightly worse endgame.

In Round 9 I played a brilliancy! I defeated IM Gudmundur Kjartansson in a lovely King’s Indian Defense. I had amazing preparation for this game, and luckily my opponent walked right into it. I even had the gall to compare myself to Nakamura, but can you really blame me?

This setup a final round with much on the line, money, rating, and the pride of finishing the tournament strong. Without any pretense of winning, I sought to play a solid game against IM Burak Firat, whose 2503 FIDE rating was nothing to sneeze at. I was doing fine from the opening, maybe slightly uncomfortable, but that quickly turned once I realized that my opponent had pushed beyond the reasonable limits of his position, and was greatly overextending, especially on the clock too. So I seized my chance and converted a fine endgame. I know the sound is quite bad but the content is really instructive!

So to wrap up, as I keep mentioning to everyone willing to listen, I don’t feel like I played so amazing. Yes, I scored 7.5/10 to earn 6th place and take down the Top U2400 prize and gain 43 rating points (which at my level is a ridiculous gain) in one of the biggest open tournaments year-round. True, all that is true. But if you look at my games, my biggest strength was staying objective and making good decisions (perhaps this was due to my low expectations of the tournament?) at the board. I rarely got over-optimistic and didn’t really blunder anything. Moreover, I didn’t blow any wins, as soon as the position was good for me, I was able to convert without blundering. Come to think of it, I must’ve been in a good mindset…

Well, I’ll ponder on how to repeat this success. Until next time!

Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn on the 2017 Reykjavik Open

As many of you all know, I recently returned from my three month trip in Europe. While I was often the only American in many of the tournaments I attended, the Reykjavik Open, my final stop, drew many from the states overseas. My coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, made his first pilgrimage to Iceland, and shares his thoughts on the tournament with us here on Chess^Summit.

Chess^Summit: Iceland is pretty far from the US. What made you decide to play in Iceland?

IMG_2758
Eugene made his way to Iceland before the start of the tournament to explore the countries many sites! He told me that he might have driven 1000 km in Iceland prior to the tournament!

Eugene Perelshteyn: I wanted to play in a strong tournament where it’s one game a day in a beautiful setting.  Given that Iceland is only five-hour flight from Boston, I figured it would be a good idea to play there!

CS: The Reykjavik Open is already prestigious as far as open tournaments go. Have you played in any other famous open tournaments?

EP: I don’t think any of the Open tournaments would match it. I’ve played many US Championships, this would probably be the closest comparison.

CS: What is Reykjavik like? Did you get to explore Iceland before the tournament?

EP: Yes, I rented a car and explored Iceland for a week before the tournament!  This is probably the best decision given how much natural beauty there is to see!

IMG_2717.JPG
CS: You got to play Anish Giri in just round 3 of the tournament. What was that like? Is he the strongest player you’ve ever played?

EP: I would say he’s the highest rated played that I’ve ever faced (rated 2775).  I was impressed by his opening knowledge.  He showed a completely new plan in a sideline that I felt I knew well.  But he’s already well-known for his openings, so it may not be that a big surprise.  However, his technique and quick decision-making was duly impressive as he didn’t give me any chances by converting an extra pawn.

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.01.12
Eugene was the main focus of the tournament’s third round. Look’s like he’s caught Jobava’s eye!

CS: You put together a strong 7/10 performance in Reykjavik. What are your thoughts on your play – positives/negatives?

EP: On a positive note, I didn’t expect to have all ten decisive games!  I managed to put together 7 wins.  However, my loss to a talented Indian girl from a good position was probably the low point of my tournament.  I have to say that she played well beyond her 2200+ rating!
My wins vs IM Piasetski and GM-elect Sarkar that both finished in mating attacks was a good recovery!

CS: While you had to play a lot of lower rated players, you also got to play Giri and Kamsky. How does a Grandmaster improve from these experiences? Is this different from how an amateur might respond from a critical game?

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.02.49
With only 7 minutes left on the clock, Eugene played 52. Ra8? and lost, but the tricky move 52. h5! holds the balance.

I definitely learned a thing or two from playing Giri!  My game vs Kamsky was evenly matched until I miscalculated and had to defend a rook and pawn endgame down a pawn.  Yet, while we both thought I was lost, I had a feeling there may be a draw.  And, indeed giving up the second pawn 52.h5 draws!  The lesson: never give up and keep looking for chances!

CS: Would you recommend the Reykjavik Open to American players? Do you think you would play in the event again?

Yes, I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve never been to Iceland.  The only thing I didn’t like about the tournament is allowing players U2000 in the open section.  While I understand that it gives amateurs a chance to face a titled player, I think it creates a strong rollercoaster-like conditions for everyone else where you play either 200-300 points up or down (end of interview).

IMG_1012
Some of the American team at the conclusion of Reykjavik

One game I was particularly impressed by was Eugene’s triumph over FM Victor Plotkin in the fourth round of the tournament. Looking to bounce back with Black after losing to the eventual tournament winner, Eugene put together an instructive game to crush the Alapin Sicilian. By slowly building the tension and keeping the nature of the position, he exploited White’s lack of a plan. In many of my own posts, I try to show how this is an effective idea against roughly 1800-1900 rated players, but Eugene did it perfectly against a titled player rated nearly 2250! Eugene was nice enough to share a video analysis with us, and if you like his videos, I would recommend you visit ChessOpeningsExplained for more!

Hope you enjoyed this Reykjavik Open tournament wrap-up! We have one more coming later this week by IM Kostya Kavutskiy, who put together an amazing 6th place finish in Iceland with a 7.5/10 finish. If you recall, Kostya and I put together analysis videos for each round, so I’m excited to see what he has to say about one of his best tournament performances to date!

What Bad Tournaments Make You Think

I’ve been to countless tournaments in the past few months, covering everything from the World Chess Championship to Chess in the Schools weekly tournaments. However, I haven’t played a rated tournament game in a long time. I played in the Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge, Massachusetts this past weekend after not playing since Millionaire Chess (October 2016).

As you may or may not know from my bio or previous articles, I am the oddball of the authors because I consider myself to be an amateur chess player. I had been playing in U1400, U1600, and U1700 tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club for a few months and held up alright, usually with 1300s.

My correct class at the Eastern Class Championships would have been the Under 1200 section, but I decided to challenge myself in playing in the 1200-1399 section. At a rating of 1152, I figured the skill level would not vary as much and I wanted to play “up,” as many players do to become stronger.

I scored a whopping 1/5, which would not have made the tournament SO horrible… but the 1 point was from the 1 point free bye I got. I lost the rated house game that did not count for my tournament score.

After this horrific tournament, I was asked to write an article, to which I wondered, “What the heck do people want to know from my new 5 game losing streak?” Then I realized that everyone can probably relate to this experience so I wanted to model those Buzzfeed relatable lists…


7 Thoughts You Have After

Bad Tournaments

(I chose 7 because it is my lucky number)

1) “Wow, I suck at chess.”

Come on. Everyone’s said it many, many, many times to themselves before. It’s often a joke, a dark sort of self-deprecating humor. Even though it is not true, losing so many games lowers the morale to that thought first and foremost. I find this deprecating comment is so common, yet most likely extremely detrimental. It connotes giving up or even brushing off lack of prep, sleep, or even just luck as factors in the game.

 

2) “What if I just change my ____? This ____ is bad luck.”

Fill the blank with “pen,” “shirt,” “drink,” etc.

Ah, the classic blame game! I play it with my pens quite often, thinking if I just changed a miniscule part of my routine that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of my play, I’ll have different luck. Chess player superstition everyone seems to have, I suppose. The only type of chess luck to have only happens OTB (Over The Board).

 

3) “Is it normal to lose this much?”

The first huge, despairing moment hits with this thought. You try to calculate if it’s statistically possible to lose so much. After all, you couldn’t have lost this many games in a tournament before, right? If Wesley So can go on large winning streaks, surely you can’t go on such large losing streaks…

 

4) “Why did I come play this tournament?”

This one relates to the luck in the 2nd point. If you hadn’t taken the gamble to play in this tournament, but maybe the next one, you could have done so much better. It is useless to follow this train of thought, as you never could have predicted such a disastrous result. Yet everyone does.

 

5) “Why did I waste so many years on this game?”

This is the next and perhaps close to the last stage of giving up. It suggests that every effort made to improve was not worth it and was a waste of time, that every game played in history was not necessary. It does not give much hope for the future.

 

6) “At least the ____ was good. But ______ sucked.”

Fill the blank with “food,” “drinks,” “company,” or “hotel”/”venue” (rare).

This thought is an attempt to stay positive, as there is usually at least one good aspect of a tournament. Often, I find that it is the company due to the “social” aspect I gain from chess, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it is only the food that can be delicious. Maybe it’s none, but it’s always fun to joke!

 

7) “I have to improve and do better next time.”

The inevitable conclusion: sometimes the only way to cheer up is to vow to improve. That is how you overcome the defeat, how you justify having lost so much. Every game is a lesson and losing is just part of the game. There will be good tournaments and terrible ones. Remember: it cannot get much worse, so it can only get better! 🙂

Opposite Colored Bishops

Opposite colored bishop endings are supposed to be boring and drawish in their raw form, but… Well, let’s have a look at my last tournament

In my last article, I mentioned I beat 3 GMs in a row with opposite colored bishops. Two with a pair of rooks on the board, and one with pure opposite colored bishops.

I’ve had my fair share of opposite colored bishop endgames, some with rooks and some without. Some were boring, but some were actually pretty interesting. Before the Philadelphia Open, I hadn’t had any opposite colored bishop endgames in a while, and it was time for compensation…

The opposite colored bishop content in the GM Paragua game wasn’t too interesting. Three connected passed pawns on the queenside are just too much.

The real opposite colored bishop deal began in my next round game against GM Shimanov.

First of all, even the decision of going into an opposite colored bishop endgame is worth analyzing.

Shima1

I had gotten a powerful centralized position earlier in the game, and now it was coming to fruit. White’s f4-pawn is going to drop soon after black plays 35… Rd4 or 35… Qd4. Once the f4-pawn drops, the e5-pawn will drop too. A variety of endgames (pure opposite colored bishops, opposite colored bishops with rooks, maybe even with queens on) could come out. Which one is best?

OK, I wasn’t going perfectionistic here, because I was 99% sure the pure opposite colored bishop endgame was winning. The idea is that after I win the white e and f pawns, white’s king will have to babysit the h4 and g5 pawns which could easily get picked up by the black bishop if white’s king goes on vacation. Meanwhile, I have a majority on the queenside, and I’ll make a passed pawn which will overwhelm the white defenses.

My silicon friend doesn’t quite support my views, and I’m not surprised. Computers are not to be 100% reliable in opposite colored bishop endgames. But true, there might be a plan for black which is objectively better, but a win is a win. Besides, I thought a lot of other possibilities would likely boil down to the same opposite colored bishop endgame in maybe a slightly better version. Basically, I believed that just going into the opposite colored bishop endgame was good enough and there wasn’t much point in looking for something which might objectively be a tiny bit better.

The game went 35… Rd4 36.e6+!? (I had been expecting 36.Rc4 Bxf4+ 37.Kf2 Qxe2+ 38.Bxe2 Bxe5 39.Rxd4 Bxd4+ which is similar to the game) 36… Ke7 (36… Kxe6 can be met with something like 37.Kg2, where black can’t take the f4-pawn due to the awkwardness of the pin) 37.Rc4 Bxf4+ 38.Kf2 Qxe2+ 39.Bxe2 Rxc4 40.Bxc4 b5 41.Be2 Kxe6

Shima2

Here we are in the opposite colored bishop endgame. However, it turns out not to be as easy as I thought it should have been. The problem is that it isn’t so easy to make a passed pawn on the queenside. If white gets his bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal, he can go to f7 and pick up my g6-pawn. That could through a wrench in the works, and I knew I had to be careful about that.

The endgame still turns out to be winning. I spent the next few moves dancing around, trying to get an idea what white’s defenses were like, admittedly without making any concrete progress. I missed easier wins on a couple of occasions, but here’s where I struck:

Shima3

The black bishop on e3 is nicely placed; it restricts the white king from getting to the queenside. I went 52… Kd6 53.Be2 bxa4 54.bxa4 Ke5

Shima4

White’s only resource here is 55.Bc4 going after the black pawns. That’s the problem I mentioned above. However, black gets through after 55… Ke4 (further restricting the white king) 56.Bf7 c5

Shima5

If 57.Bxg6, white will have no choice but giving his bishop up for the pawn after 57… c4 58.Bf7 c3 59.Bb3 Kd3. GM Shimanov tried 57.Kg2, which puts up more resistance but ultimately does not save the game. Here’s how it ended.

In the middlegame, opposite colored bishop are good for attacking. The logic behind it is that the attacker attacks on the color of his bishop, and it is difficult for the defender to protect those squares. This holds true even if there are fewer pieces on the board, and in the very next round on the very same day, I got first-hand experience with that with white against GM David Berczes.

Berczes1

White is a pawn up and has pressure against the b5-pawn. The problem, however, is white’s king safety. The white bishop is pinned on d1, meaning that until white unpins, his rook is occupied. If Black goes 30… Rc1 31.Kg2 Rxc3 32.Rxb5, white still retains his extra pawn and his pieces are getting more coordinated. However, I was worried what would happen if black waited with 30… Kf7 (or Kf8). The point is that after 31.Kg2 Ra2+, white doesn’t have anything better than going back with 32.Kh1 (32.Kf3??? Rf2# is not a good idea; 32.Kh3? Bg1 is really asking for trouble; If 32.Kf1 Rf2+ 33.Ke1 Rxh2 34.Rxb5 Bf2+ black will grab a lot of pawns and white is in danger of getting worse). Instead of 31.Kg2, white has random waiting moves like 31.h4, but nothing really looks convincing).

Instead, the game went 30… Be3? 31.Kg2 Ra2+ 32.Kf3!

Berczes2

The difference here is that black doesn’t have mate with Rf2 because his bishop is hanging. White has a solid advantage here. Things further went my way, and we eventually reached this position.

Berczes3

Two pawns up and a nice passer, it should be winning for white, right? Well, it isn’t easy, again due to white’s king being weak. Black is planning to pester the white king with checks (Rf1, Rf2). White can escape by putting his king on h3, but that’s not reliable. Black will try to go Bg1, attacking h2 with nasty effects. I played 42.Bd3 but after 42… Rd2 I decided to repeat with 43.Bc2 Rf2 and then played 44.Rc6 attacking the black bishop, trying to throw a wrench in the works. The game went 44… Be3 45.Bd3 Rd2 46.Bf1

Berczes4

White has stopped the checks, but here liquidation started to occur after 46… g5

A few moves later, we reached this position:

Berczes5

Now, the king safety situation has been completely reversed! Black’s king is now more vulnerable than white’s.

Black can play 55… Rxb6 56.Re4+ Kd3, because the bishop defends the rook in case of discovered check. However, white can just play 57.Kg2, and it isn’t easy for black to play. Black’s king is not going to be safe anytime soon; there are a lot of opportunities for him to blunder something, and white has two extra passed pawns!

Instead, GM Berczes bailed out with 55… Bxf4? 56.Re4+ Kd5 57.Rxf4 Ke5 58. Rf1 Rxb6

Berczes

This is the position I showed you in my previous article. White is winning, but it isn’t so easy. I managed to get through, but getting into this infamous endgame was a first.

The moral of the story is not all opposite colored bishop endgames are drawn! Don’t be afraid to go for a really promising opposite colored bishop endgame just because they are supposed to be drawish. As the defender, don’t automatically assume that you can easily draw all of them. Also, king safety matters in opposite colored bishops, even if there are only a pair of rooks on the board.

I’m Back! A European Wrap Up

Sorry to be a little late with my post today! I decided to visit my alma mater Maggie L Walker Governor’s School (MLWGS) yesterday before moving back to Pittsburgh later this week. Of course, for those of you who are new to Chess^Summit or don’t know me as well, my chess “career” really kicked off when I coached the MLWGS team to win the U1200 National High School Chess Championships in San Diego, just three years ago. Much of the success I had there as a coach pushed me to create this site as a personal blog, and later expand Chess^Summit to what it is now 🙂

IMG_0997.JPG
I think some players in this photo don’t need any introduction!

I decided rather than to recap my personal performance in Reykjavik, I would share my thoughts on my trip, and my best played game of my European tour. One thing I really learned about chess this trip was how important trends are within a tournament. Building momentum in a nine or ten round event can help push you to play better chess in subsequent rounds.

This is different than five round weekend tournaments in the US where it can really be difficult to recover from a loss on the scoreboard. In Europe, if you don’t recover from a loss, the negative trend can really take its toll over a week long tournament – that’s simply a function of there being more games. Fortunately for me, I was able to get ‘statement’ wins in critical moments, catapulting me to a +186 FIDE rating point gain over three months! Simply relaxing and focusing on playing smarter (and not better) can go a long ways…

IMG_1009.JPG
It wasn’t my intention to look like I was photo-bombing… with Kostya Kavutskiy and Fiona Steil-Antoni at the closing ceremony

Anyways, here is my wrap-up video for my trip! It’s been a memorable three months, and I have a lot of people to thank for making it possible. I hope you guys had fun trying to keep up with my play!

For those of you guys wanting to see my games from Reykjavik, you can see in-depth video analysis of each of my ten games in Kostya’s posts here on Chess^Summit. Admittedly, 5/10 was not the score I wanted, but I’m happy with the way I got there. Playing 1.e4 in that critical last round game took real nerves – but thanks to same pre-game preparation with my co-author Beilin Li, I was really confident and I think it showed. I highly encourage you all to try watching some of the recaps (I know they are long), but I learned a lot simply by being part of the video, and Kostya’s analysis really shows the difference between a player of my strength and someone of his caliber – truly impressive.

IMG_1012
Members of the US team (from left to right): Justin Sarkar, myself, Eugene Perelshteyn, Alan Savage, Akshita Gorti, Josh Friedel, Tatev Abrahamyan, Alejandro Ramirez, and Kostya Kavutskiy

Kostya & Isaac Finish Strong In Reykjavik

Well guys we did it, we finished the 2017 Reykjavik Open AND kept our promise to do a detailed post-mortem after each round. I ended up scoring the best performance of my career, finishing with 7.5/10 — good for Top U2400 and T-6th overall. Isaac stumbled in Round 8 but finished with two wins to close out his trip. I have to say I loved working on this project, it really made for a very engaging tournament experience. Full report coming soon (eventually). For now, here are our recaps from Round 8-10. (warning: only watch if you’re interested in getting better at chess).

In Round 9, unbeknownst to me, I ended up winning the brilliancy prize for a sterling piece of preparation in the King’s Indian. Isaac won a game that he was kind of ashamed of, but still pretty interesting. See for yourself:

In Round 10 I played White against an aggressive opponent and seized my chance to turn the game in my favor. Really nice rook endgame technique from me in this one, should raise your rook endgame ELO by at least 20-30 points! Isaac *accidentally* played 1.e4 and won in style.

That’s all from me for now! Please look forward to a full recap of the event coming as soon as I come to grips to my performance. A lot of things went well for me in this tournament, I should probably figure out what they were so that I can repeat the performance!