26 November 2011

Annotated Game #20: Training Game (Symmetrical English)

This training game isn't a miniature in fact, but essentially is one in spirit.  White makes a big strategic error on move 13, prematurely moving ahead with b4 and prompting exchanges which leave all of the chances with Black.  This is in large part due to my unfamiliarity with the Symmetrical English structures, so the game was at least valuable from the perspective of opening preparation and learning.  Moves 10-13 are particularly instructive in this regard, with some very different paths to follow.

As a little bit of background, I had just hung a piece in a "normal" training game and decided that this behavior should be punished somehow, the mechanism to deliver said punishment being a training game against the full-strength Chessmaster.  Its opening book is both good and varied, taking me out of normal practice around move 5.  With my limited experience, I am however finding that the Symmetrical English is not particularly dangerous for White as long as he doesn't try to get too much out of it.  Reasonable moves were sufficient through move 10 and even the sub-par continuation I chose after that wasn't bad, until move 13.  After that, a classic bind and squeeze is conducted by Black.

19 November 2011

The Kung Fu of Chess

Kung Fu literally translated from the Chinese means "energy-time" and in fact is best translated as "skill", since it refers to any capability that requires time and effort to master.  Outside of China, Kung Fu is commonly used to refer only to Chinese martial arts (of which there are in fact many disciplines).  But playing an instrument is also kung fu.  Dance is kung fu.  Chess is Kung Fu.

Examining chess through the prism of Kung Fu lets us apply its time-tested training philosophies to our own mental martial art.  The concept of martial morality (wude in Chinese) is fundamental to Kung Fu training and performance.  While the popular image of Kung Fu is largely limited to acrobatic displays of physical power, the internal aspect of the art is at least as important, even more so for those disciplines such as Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) where mental techniques and soft body mechanics are used to defeat hard force.  The classic saying is that "a force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds" - here is the full quote from the Taijiquan classics, which I believe is relevant to any mental martial art:

"There are many fighting arts. Although they use different forms, for the most part they do not go beyond the strong dominating the weak, and the slow resigning to the swift. The strong defeating the weak and the slow hands ceding to the swift hands are all the results of natural abilities and not of well-trained techniques. From the sentence 'A force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds' we know that the technique is not accomplished with strength. The spectacle of an old person defeating a group of young people, how can it be due to swiftness?"

The significance for the improving chess player is that natural ability will only take you so far and must be supplemented by technique.  Superior technique, achieved through deep understanding and training, will in turn defeat those who only rely on untrained strength.  Natural ability of course varies greatly, as some players may even attain Expert strength without much study, while many others will at first achieve around Class D strength.  In either case, true mastery can only be achieved through sustained study, practice and understanding of the art/game/skill we call chess.

As chess is a martial art of the mind, I will close by presenting the martial morality of mind. A fuller discussion of the concepts and practice of martial morality can be found here.
  • Will is reflected in a sincere, deep commitment to a goal. You will not turn aside.
  • Endurance, Perseverance, Patience are all necessary to achieve mastery, which is never easy or quick.
  • Courage is required to accept challenges, with the full understanding that you may lose, which in turn is necessary to win.
For other, world-class players' views of the parallels and synergies between chess and martial arts practices, one can refer to IM Josh Waitzkin's Art of Learning or GM Nigel Davies' The Chess Improver.

Annotated Game #19: Training game (Symmetrical English)

The following training game was played against Chessmaster (CM) personality "Dylan", rated Class B on my system, and is instructive and amusing, if not high-quality.  This line of the English was unfamiliar to me but I employed a standard idea from other Symmetrical English (c4/c5) positions with the 7. d4 break in the center.  This actually worked much better than I realized during the game, as the threat of d5-d6 (which was not obvious to me) in fact is quite strong without correct play from Black (7...d5).  So that was one useful takeaway from this game for my opening understanding.

After some maneuvering a dynamically equal position is reached, but then Black allows White to go for a strong attack in the center and up the f-file.  I have previously identified my attacking play as an area where improvement is needed, something which was reinforced by the sub-par conduct of this attack.  The move f6! is available for quite some time, but is never actually executed, to White's detriment.  White's attack peters out into a won endgame position where I was unable to find the key to make progress, allowing Black to sneak in a draw by repetition.

This is the first game published here using the latest Aquarium update.

8 8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
ChessAdmin - Dylan
1/2-1/2, 2011.11.11.
[#] 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c5 3.Nf3 e6 +0.18 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bg2 h6 the most common fifth moves by far are:
[5...d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.d4 Bg4 8.Ne5 cxd4 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Qxd4 ...0-1, Psakhis Lev 2582 - Polgar Judit 2700 , Benidorm 2002 It (cat.13) (active);
5...Be7 6.O-O d5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.d4 O-O 9.Bg5 Ne4 10.Bxe7 ...1-0, Karpov Anatoly 2780 - Wuerfel Christian, Hockenheim 1994 Simultan]
6.O-O Be7 7.d4 a6 +1.17 N now truly out of book.
[7...d5 would have been interesting. 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Qc2 Qe7 11.a3 and White has a reasonably comfortable game.]
8.Bf4 +0.52 is Houdini's second choice.
[Its first is 8.d5 which although it doesn't appear so at first glance, is in fact a very forcing move. The double threat of dxc6 and d6 forces Black to lose a pawn or suffer a massive positional bind. 8...exd5 (8...Na5 9.d6 Bf8 10.e4 g6 11.e5 Nh7 is similarly painful) 9.cxd5 Nd4 ( If Black for example tries 9...Na5 10.d6! Bf8 11.Qd3 now the best Black can do is grab the d6 pawn in exchange for a piece, otherwise 11...Nc6 12.Qe3+ ) 10.Nxd4 cxd4 11.Qxd4 +1.17]
8...Nh5 9.Be3 Nf6?! +1.27
[9...cxd4!? 10.Nxd4 O-O ]
10.dxc5 +0.98 again, second best to d5!
[10.d5 exd5 11.cxd5 Nd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Bxd4 +1.27]
10...Ng4 11.Bd4?! +0.22 I had seen the ..e5 push earlier but forgot about it. 11...e5 12.Be3 Nxe3 13.fxe3 Bxc5 the position is now equal. The doubled pawns are compensated for by the semi-open f-file and greater piece activity due to White's lead in development. As will be seen, the extra e-pawn can even be useful. 14.Kh1 +0.00 done in order to get the king off the a7-g1 diagonal occupied by Black's bishop and offer a pawn sacrifice. With Black's underdeveloped position, taking the pawn on e3 would be rapidly punished. 14...d6
[14...Bxe3 15.Qd5 was what I had in mind, with the principal threat of Nxe5 or Ng5 with a discovered attack on f7. 15...d6 16.Ng5 Qxg5 17.Qxf7+ Kd8 18.Rad1 with a healthy attack.]
[The immediate 15.Nd2 with the same idea of repositioning the knight on e4 would take advantage of the d6 weakness and not block the d-file.]
15...Be6 16.Nd2 a5 17.Ne4 f5?! +1.12
[17...O-O ]
18.Nxc5 dxc5 19.e4 +0.68
[19.Qb3!? appears somewhat stronger, as White creates a threat to the b7 pawn while clearing d1 for the Ra1 to move to. 19...O-O prudently moves the king to greater safety 20.Qxb7 Rc8 21.Rad1 Rf7 22.Qb5 +1.12]
19...Nd4?? +3.75
[19...O-O 20.exf5 Rxf5 +0.68]
20.e3 the doubled pawns dominate! 20...Nc6 21.exf5 Bf7 the threat of f6 now looms. 22.Qg4 Kf8 23.Rad1
[23.f6 g5 24.Rad1 is a superior continuation with the same idea, having already dominated squares around Black's king.]
23...h5 24.Qe2 h4 25.g4 h3 26.Be4 Bxd5 27.Bxd5
[I did not even consider 27.cxd5 since it shut off attacking lanes for the pieces. However, Houdini likes it best, with a sample continuation of 27...Nb8 28.f6 gxf6 29.g5 Nd7 30.d6 Qe8 31.Qg4 ;
27.Rxd5 also appears better than the game continuation, allowing the rook to penetrate into Black's position, cause direct threats, and allow for the queen or rook to go to d1.]
27...Qc7 28.Qf3 Nb4 29.a3
[29.Bxb7 I looked for a while at this, but then decided it gave Black some counterplay, while a3 did not. Houdini gives 29...Rb8 30.Be4 a move I hadn't considered 30...Nxa2 31.f6 g6 32.Bxg6 and White has nothing to worry about.]
29...Nc6 Unfortunately Nimzovich's dictum "the threat is stronger than the execution" only goes so far. Here's where f6 should have been executed (again). Instead, the attack starts petering out. 30.Be6 e4 31.Qxe4 Qe5 32.Qxe5 Nxe5 33.Rf4 White is still winning, although the double rook and minor piece endgame looks nowhere near as easy as the attack did several moves ago. 33...a4 34.Rd5 Nc6 Here the simple Rxc5 should seal the deal, with Rd5 available as a follow-up to hold the d-file. 35.Bd7 Nd8 36.e4 Rh6 37.e5 Rb6 38.Rf2 +2.63 Rb3 39.Kg1 the idea being to avoid future back-rank mate issues. 39...Re3 40.Rfd2 Nf7 41.Kf2
[Here I avoided the obvious 41.e6 Ne5 42.Rxc5 due to the knight fork 42...Nf3+ but 43.Kf2 handles things nicely.]
41...Rxe5 42.Re2 Re7 43.Rxe7 Kxe7 44.Be6 Nd6 45.Ke3 b6 46.Rd3?! +1.45
[Now was the time for 46.Kf4!? in order to march to g5.]
46...Rf8?! +2.88
[46...Rd8!? 47.Bd5 b5 48.cxb5 Nxb5 49.Ke4 ]
47.Kf4 Rh8 Here I failed to come up with a good idea to make progress. 48.Kg5 +2.38
[48.Ke5 Rd8 49.Bd5 would have allowed the king to improve its position and seal off the d-file from any threats from the Rd8.]
48...Ne4+ 49.Kf4 Nd6 50.Ke5 Rd8 I still needed more time to find the key to the position, Bd5 not occurring to me. Unfortunately... 51.Kf4?! +1.17
[51.Bd5!? Nf7+ 52.Kf4 +2.88]
51...Rh8 +2.88 is a sneaky three times repetition, which Black seizes. [1/2-1/2]