29 June 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 4 (Wang-Foisor)

By coincidence, this game from the fourth round of the 2015 U.S. Championship (women's section), like the previous commentary game from round 2, features an Exchange Slav.  Also like the previous game, it is anything but boring.  Black follows a symmetry-breaking sideline starting on move 6 and introduces some positional imbalances with the pawn structure and central control.  White fails to challenge Black effectively, missing an interesting tactical idea involving a temporary sacrifice followed by a pawn fork, then Black's space advantage eventually makes itself felt.  It is instructive to see Sabrina Foisor as Black effectively use her advantage to increase her positional edge before winning material, as well as calmly sort her pieces in the final phase before making a decisive penetration of her opponent's territory.

25 June 2015

GM Walter Browne, 1949-2015

The full ChessBase news article is here.

I had the privilege of playing in a simul at a National Open tournament with GM Browne; the game has pride of place as Annotated Game #1 on this blog.  He was an exciting part of the U.S. chess scene for a long time, including the Fischer era.  He continued playing at a high level and with great energy through this year's National Open, being both combative and dedicated to the game while remaining a gentleman at the board.  His games, at least, will live on.

23 June 2015

Ratings can go up as you get older

I haven't included Dana Mackenzie's blog until now on my "chess improver" link list, since he's a Life Master rather than a struggling Class player, but I think it's well worth looking at "Dana 1, Father Time 0" for inspiration.  He's also one of the more entertaining bloggers out there, so well worth following.

Edit: his detailed follow-up post "How I Got Here, and What Comes Next" also offers a lot of useful practical observations and performance tips.

22 June 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 2 (Gareev-Holt)

After a bit of a break from chess, I'm back and working on a collection of master games of interest that I've accumulated from this year.  The first one features a strong and flamboyant player, Timur Gareev, who is originally from Tatarstan in Russia but now plays in the USA.  Gareev's playing style recalls to some extent some of the more famous contrarian players of the past, such as Miles or Basman, as he likes to play provocative-looking moves and find risky-looking plans.

In this game Gareev (as White) is certainly aggressive, although on move 19 he makes a major strategic decision to opt for piece play on the kingside, rather than advance the pawns.  His pressure eventually peters out, with Black successfully focusing on defense with a quasi-Stonewall formation.  The next turning point occurs after Black sacrifices a pawn for piece play, including penetrating on the second rank.  White apparently misses a tactical trick that forces him to lose the exchange, which Black then converts with excellent form.

My personal interest in this game resulted from the opening choice (an Exchange Slav, which in this case is by no means boring), some parallel ideas with similar Caro-Kann formations earlier on and the Stonewall later in the game, and observing how Black (Conrad Holt) converted the material and positional advantage.  Well worth the study.

25 May 2015

Adult chess camp

One of the major problems adult chess improvers face is a lack of sustained time to improve, as life gets in the way with its many responsibilities.  Although I've advocated setting goals and allocating consistent training time on a semi-daily basis as ways of helping address this, the fact is that time is always short.

One way to make a sustained effort for training improvement is to therefore get away from your responsibilities and focus on your chess.  Naturally, this works for anything else you can productively spend several days on improving, such as music, business (think corporate retreats), or martial arts.  While I can't vouch for it personally, Kopec's Adult Chess Camp is having a 2015 session and for those in the U.S. I'd recommend a look.  There used to be a week-long chess cruise ("Chess Moves") that offered similar benefits - see the 2006 page - but which unfortunately ceased several years ago due to organizer problems.

Getting away for several days or a week can clear the mind and break us out of a training plateau.  At the very least it can expose us to a lot of information, some of it likely completely new, that we can use to help take us forward to the next level.