Monday, February 18, 2008

Correspondence Games- 8 in one blow!

Wow. I just spent the last 2 hours cranking out variations for 8 correspondence games I'm playing (6 IECG games and 2 in a forum championship). After awhile, all the lines run together and I start thinking that I've emailed the same person two different moves, or even the wrong game to someone.

The forum Championship is in the 'Finals'. We had 6 groups of 5-7 people play round robin. The group winners, runners-up and two wildcards are playing single elim matches. This round its 2 games, the next two are 4 games and the finals is a six game match.

The forum isn't a chess forum, but there are some very good players there. The group stage was a mixed bag. One game in an unclear middlegame was awarded to me by abandonment, another with me a rook up was abandoned, one I swindled my opponent (down a piece and he missed a mate in one) and the last (actually the first finished) was a legit mate. I think I won the exchange and just forced my way in from there...I forget.

The two games I'm in now I expect to win, and one of them I can't wait to share. I missed a move and thought I was going to drop a piece, but it turned out I could switch the subsequent move order and have ended up with the Bishop pair, a Knight, a Rook and a bonus pawn versus two Rooks and a Bishop.

I'm trying to visualize as much as possible without just pushing the pieces and saving all the variations. I'm still missing stupid stuff, but I'm checking myself fairly well and have avoided disaster so far. One of the IECG games does have a position I can't wait to get a computer to look at- I think my opponent missed a line winning at least the exchange, maybe even a piece.

Hopefully, the occasional frenzy of responding to 8 games at once will pay off :P

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Babas/FICS tips and tricks for LEPers

Glenn and I had a little trouble getting out game started for round 1, mostly because my formula was set to restrict my opponents to between 100 points below my rating and 200 above. Babas has a great little feature to make it easy to turn my formula on and off without needing to recreate it over and over.

First off- how to create a formula in Babas:

Go to the View menu and choose Formula Wizard. It goes through several pages of options letting you narrow down what kinds of games your looking for. Personally, I like ~30 minute, rated games with players about my level and no guests, computers or abusers.

Once you have the formula created, the wizard will display it. Highlight it all and copy it to the Clipboard. Click Finish if you'd like to turn it on right now.

Now, pop over to the Quick Commands menu and choose Configure. Click the New Command button. Name it something clever, like Formula On, in the Name field. In the Script to Execute field, delete all the text, type "set formula" and then paste the formula from the wizard. Make sure there is only one space between the word "formula" and the next character, or there could be syntax problems.

Click OK and bam! You can now turn on your formula whenever you like!

To get full use of the ability to turn your formula on whenver you like, you need to create a Formula Off command. Create a new command, as above (do not go through the Formula Wizard this time). In the Script to Execute field, simply type "set formula" and save the command. Choosing this new command will turn off the formula whenever you like.

If you play a variety of games, like blitz or bughouse or whatever, you could create several formula commands specific to each type.

The main benefit to using formulas is that the Seek Graph and list in Babas will only display people looking for what you want, and it prevents random people from poking you for a one minute game with 17 second increment. My graph is often empty with the formula on, because not many people play 30 minute games, but I rarely wait more than 5 minutes when seeking for what I want.

When you use the Action->Seek command in Babas, you can save your preferred time limits, choose to use the formula and get exactly what you want, generally improving the online chess experience.

The second big question Glenn had was about examining the game.

There are several ways to start an Examine session on the server. If you're doing a post-mortem, you should each automatically be examining the game on your own. As long as the other person (or anyone you want to be able to move the pieces and make circles and arrows and stuff) is listed in the Observers tab (under the board), go to the Console window (press F2 if you can't find it- that'll bring it to the top) and enter "mexamine USER" where USER is that person's name.

Now they can move stuff around. I've never done this, so I have no idea exactly how the variations are added and saved or how it works (like a Pushmepullyou, I'm sure). Using the Edit->Examine menu, you can see commands duplicating the arrows most people have below the board, but also the Circle and Arrow tools. These do exactly what they say they do. Go to the Actions menu and choose Examine last game and play around with it. Nifty stuff.

To customize the appearance of the Circles and Arrows (as well as everything else board wise), go to File->Preferences. Choose Board, then Piece movement and scroll the Move Input box almost to the bottom and you can change the color of your Arrows and Circles. If you have an examined game with stuff on it, choose a color and hit Apply and you can see what it'll look like without having to go through the menus again.

Some of this info is in the Babas Help files, some in the Fics files and some by just fiddling around. I hope this saves others a little bit of time, and I'll add other cool stuff as I learn it myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

gorckat vs NoTB: LEPers 1, Round 1

Since LEP has plans to run/coordinate more tournaments, I'm calling this inagural event...LEPers 1! Damn, I'm clever.

Here's a few positions from my Round 1 game with Glenn (he has a viewer with the game as well as his thoughts over at his blog, Houston Chess):

I think b3 and then Bb2 to support the d-pawn long-term would have been better than Re1. Maybe I'd push the f-pawn later, or need to get the rook to d1? I think the rook move was premature.

Crafty likes h3 better than my d5. I pushed to avoid dropping the pawn and/or getting the kingside ripped open (which happened anyway after 12. ... Ne5)

Played Qa3 to save the b-pawn. I missed that after 19.Rb1, my Queen was covered by the g3 Bishop and thought 19. ... Bxf3+ won my Queen. I often miss long Bishop moves, but usually in a way that drops a piece, not defends my own. Anyone know good Bishop move drills to make those long moves pop more?

I didn't give b4 enough thought, but it's about a pawn better than my Na4, according to Crafty. The line would not have been much easier as Crafty gives (with my own !s) 22.b4 Bxf3+! 23.Kxf3 Qc6+ 24.Ne4 f5 25.Qe3 Bh6!! 26.Qe2 fxe4+ 27.Kg2 e3+ and then there's a few ways to go, either trying to squirrel away the King or blocking with f3:

Nasty stuff.

This was my last shot, hoping for a "cheap" Mate in 2, but Glenn found one of several ways out with g5.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What moves should I study?

Thinking about Sticky Chess, it just hit me: what moves would be best "taught" by repetition?

The Circles focus on combinations and winning moves. All the software and books that people use for repetitious study teach people how to win a won game, for the most part. The moves are forcing, with any deviation leading to less than the best result. The benefit is tangible- you will, most likely, not miss winning opportunities less often than before the course of study was begun.

But what about those moves that are sound, solid, "normal"- the moves that don't lose? I think this is what I've been reading on Tempo's blog, as well as in the writings of other people beyond Circles and hardcore tactics training.

In what I've read about chunking and GMs having familiarity with (iirc) ~100k positions, it seems the subconscious makes the normal moves, and only pings the conscious mind if something is there to be looked at deeper.

It's those moves that I think need their own training circles. I'm imagining a database of thousands of game fragments starting with "normal" positions and proceeding through a balanced move set where neither side wins or loses outright- no blunders. Watching the moves repetitively would instill the instinct that says it's time to move a knight back to the first rank and then across the board, to shore up a pawn, to open or close the center- whatever is called for. looks like I'm asking for the mythical easy way out of chess study, but knowing how hard it is to complete the Circles, I doubt it'd be easy. I could only watch chess moves for so long before wanting to play :P

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sticky Chess

I'm reading a book called Making Things Stick. Or maybe its Ideas That Stick. I forget. Its, shocker!, about ideas that are simple enough and profound enough that they, shocker again!, stick.

"A bird in hand is worth two in the bush" has parallels in like 50 different languages and cultures. The razor blades in apples parent's check for at Halloween never happened.

The ideas have similar traits that make them stick, and since my wife took the book back (its her's, really) I can't recall them concretely enough to make it sensible. I do recommend strongly that anyone interested in learning, teaching or in a position that needs to convey information to check out the book. (I'll get the right title tonight).

Reading it, I see so many lessons for a teacher to use when teaching someone chess. Concepts and methods.

Somewhere, yesterday, I heard, read or saw a report on scientists teaching toddlers words by showing them two pictures side by side and saying the name of one of the objects (like a picture of an apple and a pumpkin and saying apple). They think the kids' brains acted like computers processing the info and after a short while repeating the testes with a variety of images, the kids did something cool.

I can't recall if it was say the word when shown the picture, or pick the picture out of a larger set when the word was spoken.

My prowess at recalling variations over the board must be stunning you right now, huh?

Some people watch chess games movie style, and over time the positions get processed and they can use what they saw- chunking I often see it called. Perhaps there's a way to make a Baby Einstein-like DVD that teaches chess not by here's this and this is what it does, but the way Kasparov (iirc) says he learned it- watching and then just knowing.

If the game could be taught "indirectly" that way, then so could openings, endgames, tactics- the whole shebang. Maybe that's the mechanic behind the circles working, and maybe there's a better way.

UPDATE: Here's the authors website-

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jaque mate

Yeah- sometimes it's like that:

Jaque mate by InpuUpUaut

Dark and morbid: yes.
Brutal yet satisfying: indeed!

Remember folks:

Castle early and castle often!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chess players are people, too

Huh. Who knew a post about making FICS friends would give me reason to introspect and reflect.

Tom popped by to share his FICS handle and since I didn't recognize him (I now recall seeing him over at LEP) I popped over to his blog to have a look. Rather than chess, I was surprised to see a Christian blog.

I've had a tendency to skirt most personal details except as they relate to chess, directly and indirectly, on my blog, and then here I was saying to myself, "Woah...he's a Christian, and pretty devout as well (a Deacon, even!)...wonder if I should add him or not?"

I'm an Atheist.

I'm not gonna be burning any Bibles (I have two, actually, not counting my daughter's from her Christening), removing kids from devout parents (although I do agree with the sentiment that Richard Dawkins expressed that indoctrination is a form of child abuse) nor will I be waging war on xmas (well...not much- it has roots in pagan traditions pre-dating Christianity and blends with them, but don't quote me- I'm not the expert) or saying things like Satan Bless You when you sneeze (okay...maybe once in awhile :P).

I consider myself very open-minded and considerate of others views, no matter what I think of the views and beliefs themselves. I will challenge them in the appropriate venue (one forum I frequent and play games at has had several recent invigorating discussions of religion and morality with advocates of many creeds and religions and a good sense of camraderie). It shocked me that I would hesitate to add someone to a friend list based on their religon. I'm the minority at my workplace, by gender, race and religon (I'm not out at work), and here I was getting all xenophobic!

I wondered if I'd add Tom to a non-chess section of my blogroll that I've been contemplating (despite saying in the past that I wouldn't have a non-chess section), and how I'd respond if he hit me up for a game on FICS.

And really, there's nothing I should do but add Tom to my lists. Some people like me, some people don't. I can't change that and don't expect them to change my opinions of them. But at no point should I exclude people because of our differences...I'll be awfully lonely in short order if I do, and I'll be missing these opportunities to challenge my spirit of acceptance and openness.

Who plays at FICS?

Reading a week old post at liquid egg product, I saw a number of bloggers dabbling at FICS. Doubting anyone would see a comment there, I'm advertising here.

I'm gorckat on FICS (and just about everywhere else online :P), so feel free to hit me up sometime. I'm gonna add anyone whose handle was in the comments at lep to my friends/notify lists. You'll be my very first's like first grade all over again!

Using the Examine options it'd be possible to get all jiggy with study sessions and stuff, as well.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

First sighting of a chess dad

I went 0-4 last night. Clearly the lack of PCT practice has hurt my danger sense. I walked right into a basic knight fork of rook and king, among other silly errors, but still had a great time. I got there early enough to play couple blitz games against a guy who beat me last time, sort of meet the former club president and champion, who once beat Fischer in a simul, and enjoyed the all male commentary and critique of top chess woman with big boobs (sorry Polly!)

My round two opponent was the son of the soon to be mentioned chess dad. By name and accent, I'm guessing they are from Eastern Europe or Russia. The son is about 12 or so (I really suck at judging ages- if i were every a carnie at one of those age guessing games, the age window would have to +/- 10 years or I'd be out of prizes in an hour) and handled me. Even though it was G/15, he got up a few times and walked around the room to glance at everyone's games.

Round three was his father. I had a tight, cramped position as white with a Bishop bound up playing super pawn on the queenside to prevent a rook intrusion. He brought his king out, since his kingside pawns had advanced, the center was open and there'd been a tit-for-tat on the queenside, and I was able to exploit a pin on his pawn to manuever my previously hopeless knight in the center to the rim with a few threats to his bishops, and was able to take a Bishop and get a rook deep in the center.

Unfortunately, I wasted a minute deciding that he did indeed have one more defender of a central pawn than I had attackers and ended up losing to a bank rank mate with less than 10 seconds left. I was hesitant to trade down to a minor piece ending, but I think I should have.

At the end of the night, the son was playing the last game, got in time trouble and flagged, although his opponent missed a skewer to win the queen and win by force. then the fireworks happened. The father jumped up his kid's ass like nothing I'd seen. The tourney I took my daughter too had a few school teams and one or two lone parents, and it was all touchy feely, give it your best kind of stuff.

I don't recall the boy walking around that game, but he may have early, and they disagreed over how much time was left at some stage. Everyone was like, "Dude- chill. Its a game", but he was hung up on how his kid was a spoiled American brat and plays the game of chess, not the sport.

I hope to crush the father if we play again. I had him, but couldn't close the deal. Not that he'd go easier on the kid. He'd probably vent any frustration on him.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Local Chess Clubs

I added another link section dedicated to local clubs. Its a little rickety since the Fells Point Chess Club doesn't have a website and a fourth club's website (Loch Raven Chess Club) seems to always be down to bandwidth issues.

Both have additional info at the Maryland Chess Association's Club Directory. Fells Point is particularly active, with one or more events every weekend. I'm heading back to the Catonsville Club tonight for some G15 action. I figured out the delay settings on my clock, so no clocking out while up a knight :P

I kept the listings to clubs in the Baltimore Metro area since I consider myself a "local blogger". There's a half dozen or more clubs in neighboring counties, and their listings are also at the MCA site.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I've strayed from the chess path the last few weeks. My desktop hasn't been able to get online since Xmas. My daughter has been generous with her new laptop so I've been able to keep up with things that way. I still haven't ported PCT over to the laptop (until I get a wireless modem, her laptop goes online in place of the desktop- too much hassle to switch back and forth), however, so I've been rusty there.

One of our dogs, an 18-year old Shih-Tzu, had been deteriorating since Xmas and passed over the weekend, so I'm even more apathetic towards chess. I'm trying to be the strong one for my wife and I know in a month I'll breakdown, but I need to get her through the next week or so.

I've played a few games out of Logical Chess when I had time over the last few weeks, but I haven't played so I'm not sure what I got out of them.

I was looking at the Polgar brick last was a mate in two with two rooks and two knights versus a pawn. I was like, "Who gives a shit if its mate in two? With delay I can mate with the rooks no problem!"

I'm also struggling at my job, low income energy assistance...I'm sick of everyone else's problems, that every person coming in is a crisis and needs dealing with right away and gets bumped in front of the 1000 people who mailed their stuff in months ago to avoid crisis, that I haven't gotten a raise in 2.5 years and my income is the same as it was seven years ago even the moves I've made were supposed to be the next step up, that (as the Operations guy) I have to fucking do and fix everything, that the intake and data entry people stop for lunch at 12 on the dot leaving me to finish intake for people allowed to sign in until 12! Blah.

The only thing I've kept up on is my IECG games. I'm about to come out or just came out of book in most of them, so things should get spicey.

I haven't surfed chess blogs in awhile, and looking at the list of blogs here, I'm thinking I might feel better doing so.

And screw this damn post preview crap! There is no more- its all right there!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tournament Etiquette

I did a quick google to answere a few lingering questions I had and learned a few things in the process:

-I had no idea its not required to say 'Check'. Seems to me the proper thing to do is say it, but I guess not. That'll be news to my best friend who about bit my head of a few years back in a casual game!
-It is the opponent's responsibility to point out a flag fall- I resigned the game my time ran out (I had thought this the case, but it seems to be in my interest ot not point it out in the future)

The one thing I didn't find a clear answer to is what to do when my opponent doesn't push the clock?

In the game I resigned on time, there were several times my opponent didn't push the clock. He was not a beginner, which I have seen it advised to remind the opponent to push their clock. In a couple cases, I hadn't realized he didn't push it until I went to hit the button and discovered a free move. (Too bad I didn't make better use of the time!)

But in two instances, iirc, I noticed, pondered a bit and made my move anyway. I didn't wan to sit there and stew over propriety.

What's the correct response?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Finally played real chess!

With real people! I played in the Catonsville Chess Club Friday Knight, a 5 round Swiss G/15 and went +1 -4.

One game, agaisnt the Danish Gambit Accepted I scrapped out to what could have been a win, but I haven't yet figured out how to program the delay on my clock, so instead of 12 minutes with a 3 second delay, I clocked out after 15 minutes.

My win cames against the Caro-Kan. c6 was abandoned by the black pawns, the center was blocked and I sent my c3 knight on a journey to get to the outpost, which would be created after a series of exchanges locked a pawn on d5 with c4 backup. I wish we'd recorded moves, because I think it was a really good idea. It was either really deep or really flaky.

I ended up dropping a knight on the kingside as my opponent mounted an offensive, and I ended up with a pinned Bishop and shaky foundations on the kingside. We traded rooks and each had about 3 minutes left. We both slowed down because I could feel things were on a tightrope for both of us. I got my chance and offered to take the Queens of the board, which would have left it possible to ecxhange down to a Bishop ending that I though I might be able to draw.

When he declined the Queen offer, I snatched his forgotten a8 rook with check and things spun rapidly. I think he lost his cool because pieces and pawns flew off the board until I was down to ~10 seconds (with delay, thankfully!), a Bishop and Rook and his king streaking (the naked kind) across the board.

I snatched a few pawns before month old stale tactics lessons took over and I made a half dozen moves on automatic and lined up my king, a pawn and the bishop and the rook slid over- checkmate on the h-file and adrenaline surging!

All in all, a great time. I have to go back with my camera because one guy has some awesome chess tatoots which would make a great post.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

If thou must love chess

If thou must love me

IF thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile- her look- her way
Of speaking gently,- for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"-
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,- and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,-
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(From Sonnets from the Portuguese)

That's number 14, iirc. My wife and I chose it for our wedding invitation; I'd written her an awesome letter with this sonnet in it during our courtship. My comment on Chessaholic's latest post and his mention of recent chess burnouts made me think of it, just now.

Look at how our chess knowledge grows and changes over time...if at any point we become convicted that we know chess and that chess only exists as we see it right now...poof! Her smile changes, she makes us think something we didn't before and if you can't go with her, forget it- you get burned in the fiery hell that is Qxf7#. Which really sucks.

For those who are burned out, sometimes you have to let it go to get it back. Remember what drew you in, accept her changes and love her as she is now.

And as she will be.

(Goodness, I think I have a new wife is gonna be pissed!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Pig on fire

Here's a postition that blows me away. It has a sort of purity to it...the idea is right there, perfectly demonstrated. Its pretty.

At the risk of parroting Chernev 1. Rxe7 crushes black. The game went: 1. ... Qxe7 2. Qf3 Kg7 3. Nce4 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Qe6 5. Bxf6+ Kg8 6. Qf4 1-0

After playing it through, I also spent a lot of time looking at the board before 3. Nce4...I smiled at how, despite being covered by a pawn, queen and knight, it was so vulnerable an invasion point for black. The pinned knight, the king pulled like a moth to flame on g7...awesome.

And horrific as it sounds, given Yasser Seirawan's affection for calling rooks pigs (at least when paired on the seventh rank!), I have to equate the rook blowing up the bishop on e7 to the ancient practice of covering a pig in tar or pitch or whatever, lighting it up and sending it squealing and flaming into the enemy ranks, causing confusion and horror!

(My original title got lost in a browser reload, but I now have to tag any rook sacrifice with Pig on fire :P)