Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not bad

Here's a game I played recently that I quite enjoyed. Nothing spectacular happens; it's just chess. The players maneuvered for a while, and gradually I got an advantage. A temporary Pawn sacrifice helped turn things even more in my favor, and I finished off by transposing to a won King-and-Pawn endgame that I recognized from working my way through Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual a few years ago. It was one of my best games, and quite a pleasure to play.

That was fun to annotate, too, but I really need to do some work on some of my losses now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Favorite Move

I was browsing the excellent blog of the Streatham & Brixton Chess Club the other day. They have an occasional feature called "My Favourite Moves", and it made me think about my own favorites.

My favorite move that I've played myself was from a game almost twenty years ago (although 32. Bg4 from two years ago is close). I was playing in the Under-2200 section of the New York Open, in the middle of my drive to finally get my rating over 2200. After a tense struggle, we reached this position:

Gaillard - Harvey Ross, NY Open 1987.
Position after 35...Ra1xa2.

White has an obvious advantage, but I was frustrated by Black's seemingly unbreakable blockade on g7. Also, I was worried that Black's new passed a-pawn might just run down the board if I didn't do something quickly. So:

36. Rh8!!

And away we go. The rook can't be taken because of 36...Kxh8 37. Kh6, threatening g7 mate; and if Black moves his Bishop to give the King air, then g7+ followed by Bh7+ is still crushing.


Or 36...Ra4 37. Rxg8+ Kxg8 38.e6 Kf8 39.Kf6 Rg4 40. Bf5 Rg1 41.e7+ Ke8 42. Be4 Rf1+ 43. Ke6 Re1 44. g7 Rxe4+ 45. Kf5 and a pawn goes on to glory.

37. Rxg8+ Kxg8 38.Kf6 Ra4

38...Rg1 39. e6 Kf8 40. e7+ Ke8 41. Be4 is similar to the last note.

39. e6 Rb4 40. e7 Black Resigns (1-0)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Been a long time since I rock 'n' rolled

I didn't play for most of 2007 year for reasons I will not go into because this isn't a chess politics blog. I started up again in late in the year, and have been playing pretty regularly since.

I'll post a few games soon (promises, promises), but first I want to... muse for a bit about chess improvement.

I'm the kind of geek who constantly does spreadsheets and graphs of everything. Naturally, I do this for chess. I've just noticed something: my performance since December 2005 is much better -- about a hundred points better -- than it had been before then. So, I wonder if that's significant, and if so, what the reason is.

One thing it might be is that I changed my Black openings right at that time. And indeed, my score with the Caro-Kann has been pretty fierce. But, my performance with White has also improved, by only a little less than my Black performance. So that's probably not it.

I had been overdosing on CTS in the summer and fall of 2005, and stopped right around November. It seems counter-intuitive that doing fewer tactical problems would help my play, but (1) it probably helped to keep me from leaping at the first plausible move so much, and (2) it's possible that all the tactics work actually helped, and just took a while to filter into my actual play.

I had been working on Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual all though that year; on the other hand, I'd been working on that in 2003 and 2004, as well, with no visible results. And I'd done a lot of analytical work on my own games, as well, but I always did that, and in fact I did it less after Spring of 2005. Again, maybe those took some time to take hold.

Starting in mid-2005 and continuing through the whole streak, I did a lot of work on what I call "practical problems", like the ones in Silman's Reassess Your Chess Workbook. I certainly feel like my thought process has changed for the better because of that.

Finally, over most of 2005-06 I did quite a bit of "blindfold practice", playing over short games from a book and trying to visualize the accurately.

I'm not sure I have any definite conclusions. Heck, a hundred point difference could be chance, even over 50 games.

Going forward I'm going to continue with the practical problems, and go back to doing blindfold practice. I'll analyze my games, but not as obsessively as I was doing before. I might do some intensive tactical sessions, but I will stop well before a tournament.

We'll see how it goes. Next stop, Foxwoods (March 19-23). (Edit, March 17th:) Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to Foxwoods after all. And I can't play the April tourney at the Marshall, either. I don't know when I'm going to get to play again. Phooey.

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