19 August 2009

Create Training Exercises

To have Fritz (or Hiarcs, Junior, or other ChessBase engine) analyze a batch of games, first highlight in the database view the games you want analyzed.

Then from the menu at the top, go: Tools >> Analysis >> Full Analysis.

This brings up a window such as you see in the image.

If you want the engine to create training exercises, make certain the box "Training" (see red arrow) is checked.

You can see on the right side of the image above the black portion some tags that Fritz adds to annotated games. You may need to click on the igae to see all of it. Those with the small t have training exercises. In this batch, that's close to half of the games. Fritz will not create exercises for every game, and it may create several in some games.

17 August 2009

Reinforcing Error

Unlike Michael de la Maza (Rapid Chess Improvement [2002]), who quit chess, and his minions, my chess improvement stems from a varied approach. My tactics training encompasses periodic commitment to playing from the key position to the computer's resignation (see "Where the Rubber Meets the Road") interspersed with working a website's system, such as Chess Tactics Server or the Tactics Trainer at Chess.com (see "Milestones"). I also use training exercises that Fritz or Hiarcs creates during its automatic analysis of games, or that users can create with the assistance of this software. Claude Kaber's training exercises are exemplary for illustrating the potential of this feature (see "Good Luck").

The exercises created automatically by Fritz, however, should be greeted with skepticism. The engines like drama.

Fritz Training Flaws

When I ran my game from last Thursday through full analysis by Hiarcs 12 (this engine uses the Fritz 11 interface), it created two training problems. The second is from this position awaiting my move 27.

White to move

During the game I looked at this position, found the dramatic 27.Rxe6+, and executed it. In my interior monologue I was telling myself that I was winning a piece through brilliant forcing play. Indeed, I was implementing that sage advice uttered by chess teachers everywhere, such as Peter Kurzdorfer, The Tao of Chess (2004).
The key to checking multimove combinations is to concentrate on the forcing moves: checks, captures, promotions, and the immediate threats to check, capture, and promote. By cutting it down to these forcing moves, you now have some manageable numbers to work with. The moves you look at are the ones that will likely affect the outcome of the game.
Kurtzdorfer, 108
Immediately after executing my "brilliant move," I found the antidote. My opponent had a defense that refutes my idea. Instead of winning a piece as I had thought, I would have a bishop and two pawns for a rook. My internal monologue became hypercritical, telling myself how I will never advance in chess if I keep making hasty moves that I have not fully calculated.

The rook check fails, and had I examined why it failed, I could have quickly found the much superior 27.Bd5. A fundamental element in tactical training and calculation is the process that Paata Gaprindashvili calls "reciprocal thinking" in his challenging Imagination in Chess: How to Think Creatively and Avoid Foolish Mistakes (2004).
After noticing an idea and briefly familiarizing ourselves with it, we proceed to its detailed examination. What do we do if we find that it doesn't work? ... If we fail to make an idea work, we need to stop and ascertain the cause of failure (i.e. answer the question "why?"), and then attempt to correct our design.
Gaprindashvili, 40
Without detailed examination, the failure goes unnoticed.

I was lucky. Under the pressure of my forcing move, my opponent cracked and offered the game losing blunder on move 28. It's no wonder that Hiarcs likes forcing moves. Carbon-based lifeforms capitulate to such deceptions with regularity. But the engine knows better, so why did it create this training exercise?

After executing the same move that I played in the game, I read, "Correct! You entered the strongest move." But this feedback is wrong. My move is not among the half-dozen best choices. Although forcing, and although successful in this case, it might have cost me the game.

According to the quantitative assessment of Hiarcs 12 from the problem position, White's advantage is greater than two pawns. 27.Bd5 is assessed at +2.29 with a depth of 16, and is slightly inferior to +2.39 for Re3. After executing the move from the game, the assessment drops to +0.85. When I annotated this game in the wee hours of Friday morning (see "Last Night"), I gave my move a single ?; I might have given it two, calling it an egregious blunder.

Tactics training with these automatically generated exercises, if they have not been checked for accuracy, will cultivate one's vision for forcing moves. Rather than improving the necessary abilities for calculation, however, such problems may reinforce error.

14 August 2009

Last Night

In round one of the August Ajeeb Quads, I played an opponent that I have not faced before. Although his rating is two hundred below mine, I know very little about his skills. After his rather unorthodox response to 1.d4 we transposed into an opening that I have not played OTB before, and I feared that perhaps he knew well enough to exploit my ignorance. Somehow I managed to find good moves.

Stripes,J (1824) - Pitre,W (1615) [C44]
Ajeeb Quads, Spokane 2009

1.d4 Nc6 2.e4 e5 3.Nf3

I wrote Scotch on my score sheet in the box labeled Opening. Unfortunately, it has been five years since I paid much attention to the Scotch.

3 ... d6 4.dxe5 Nxe5 5.Nxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.Bc4 f6 8.Be3 Bd6


I considered 9.Nc3, and after the game found 9... c6 10.0–0–0 Kc7 11.Rd3 Ne7 12.Rhd1 Bb4 13.a3 Bxc3 14.Rxc3 b6 15.Rcd3 Ng6 16.a4 Re8 17.f3 Re7 18.a5 Nf4 19.Bxf4 exf4 20.g3 fxg3 21.hxg3 f5 22.exf5 Bxf5 23.Rc3 Rf8 ½–½ Moser-Marin, Barcelona 2007


9...Ke7 10.0–0 Be6 11.c3 g5 12.a4 Nh6 13.f3 Nf7 14.a5 a6 15.b4 Rhg8 16.g4 h5 17.h3 hxg4 18.hxg4 Nh8 19.Kg2 Ng6 20.Rh1 Rh8 21.Rxh8 Rxh8 22.Rd1 Nf4+ 23.Bxf4 exf4 24.Bxe6 Kxe6 25.Nb3 Ke7 ½–½ Brod-Nickl, 1994

10.0–0–0 Bd7 11.g3N

11.Bb3 was played in a game between two class players with an average rating lower than in our present game. I spent some time considering this move as I wanted to deploy my knight to c4, but g3 prepares a pawn push, and also serves as a waiting move to give my opponent opportunity to present a weakness.

11...Ng6 12.h4

The knight is a target.

12... Ke7 13.h5 Nf8

Black's rooks remain unconnected, and his king might become vulnerable if the position opens up.

14.f4 Be6 15.Be2

My engine likes 15.f5, but I rejected this move because the closed position did not seem to offer strong prospects for winning. My plan was to keep material on the board, and try to provoke an exchange of knight for bishop (a plan I formulated after 8...Bd6).

15...Nd7 16.a3?! a5

16...Bc5 thwarts White's plan.

17.Nc4 Nc5

18.Nxd6? right idea, wrong sequence

18.fxe5 fxe5 19.Bg5+ Kd7 20.Rh4±

18...cxd6 19.fxe5 fxe5 20.Bg5+ Kd7 21.h6!?


21...Nxe4! 22.Bb5+ Kc7 23.Be7 is hard to assess

22.Bf6 Nxe4 23.Bxe5 Rhf8 24.Rhe1 Ke7

24...Kc6 is better

25.Bg7 Rf7 26.Bc4! Ng5

26...Bxc4 27.Rxe4+ Be6 28.Rde1+-



27...Nxe6 28.Re1


The last chance to keep up a fight was 28...d5 29.Bxd5 Ra6 30.Bxb7 Rb6 31.Bd5±

29.Bxf6+ Kxf6 30.Rxe6+ Kg5 31.Rxd6 Rf8 32.Rd7 Kxh6 33.Rxb7 Rf5 34.g4 Rf4 35.Be2 Re4 36.Kd2 Re5 37.Rb5 Rxb5 38.Bxb5 1–0

12 August 2009

Keres Attack with 6...e5 7.Bb5

The Keres Attack is an aggressive weapon for White against the Scheveningen variation of the Sicilian Defense. It begins 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4. I noted last week in "Intimidation" that Black has four "book" responses. Readers recommended looking at 6...e5 even though it is less popular at the highest levels, so I have been looking at a few games along the resulting lines.

6...e5 7.Bb5

For 7.Nf5, see Keres Attack with 6...e5

Detours through the next several moves seem rare.

7...Bd7 8.Bxd7 Qxd7 9.Nf5 h5

Now, White has some choices.

10.f3 appears to have been introduced by Ferdinand Pop in a correspondence game in 1964, and it has scored over 60%. Popp won his game, which I reproduce here.

Popp,F - Schnieders,H [B81]
Correspondence, Germany 1964

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 e5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Nf5 h5 10.f3 hxg4 11.fxg4 g6 12.Ne3 Bh6 13.Qf3 Bg5 14.h4 Rxh4 15.Nf5 Bxc1 16.Rxh4 gxf5 17.Rh8+ Ke7 18.Rxc1 fxg4 19.Qg3 1–0

However, among master level players since 2000, 10.f3 has appeared only twice, both in games among juniors, and both were wins for Black. Rather, Alexei Iljushin won both games. Rather than abandoning the line, it behooves the scholar to understand Iljushin's ideas and comprehend where his opponents erred.

Shinkevich,V (2440) - Iljushin,A (2515) [B81]
Russian Junior Championship, Ufa 2000

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 e5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Nf5 h5 10.f3 hxg4 11.fxg4 Rh3 12.Qe2 Qc6 13.Ng3 Nbd7 14.Bg5 d5 15.Bxf6 d4 16.Nd5 Nxf6 17.Nxf6+ gxf6 18.0–0 Rc8 19.Kg2 Rh8 20.c3 Bh6 21.cxd4 exd4 22.Nf5 Be3 23.Nxe3 Qxe4+ 24.Rf3 Kf8 25.Kg1 dxe3 26.Rxe3 Qg6 27.Rd1 Kg7 28.h3 Rc2 29.Qd3 Rxb2 30.Qxg6+ Kxg6 31.Rf3 Rc8 32.Rdf1 Rc6 33.R1f2 Rxf2 34.Rxf2 Ra6 35.Kg2 Ra3 36.Rb2 b6 37.Kh2 f5 38.gxf5+ Kxf5 39.Kg2 Kg5 40.Kh2 f5 41.Kg2 f4 42.Rf2 b5 43.Kh2 b4 44.Rg2+ Kh5 45.Rb2 a5 46.Rf2 Kg5 47.Rg2+ Kf5 48.h4 Rg3 49.Rc2 Kg4 50.Rc5 Ra3 51.h5 Rxa2+ 52.Kg1 b3 0–1

Mastrovasilis,D (2386) - Iljushin,A (2509) [B81]
European Junior Championship, Aviles 2000

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 e5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Nf5 h5 10.f3 hxg4 11.fxg4 Rh3 12.Bg5 Rxc3 13.bxc3 Nxe4 14.Be3 d5 15.0–0 Nc6 16.c4 d4 17.Qf3 Nc5 18.Bd2 e4 19.Rae1 Qe6 20.Qg2 0–0–0 21.c3 d3 22.Ng3 Ne5 23.Nxe4 Nxc4 24.Ng5 Qb6 25.Kh1 f6 26.Ne4 Qc6 27.Rf2 Re8 28.Ng3 Rxe1+ 29.Bxe1 Qe6 30.Bd2 Nxd2 31.Rxd2 Qe1+ 32.Nf1 Ne4 33.Qf3 Nxd2 34.Qf5+ Kc7 35.Qa5+ Kc6 36.Qa4+ Kc7 37.Qa5+ Kc8 38.Qf5+ Kb8 39.Qf4+ Ka8 0–1

07 August 2009

Keres Attack with 6...e5

So far at least two readers have advocated studying 6...e5 for Black in the Keres Attack against the Scheveningen Sicilian. My opening book of master games since 2001 (MT IV) indicates that this move is the least popular (44 games of 629) of the four principal continuations. Even so, Linuxguy_on_FICS claims it is the most principled reply, so it's worth a look.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 e5 we have the starting position.

Two moves appear in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings:


My opening book MT IV indicates that Bb5 is twice as popular as Nf5, but that Nf5 scores much better. The main line in ECO from Nf5 ends with a substantial edge for White. 7.Bb5 breaks into three lines in ECO--two end as unclear, one ends with a substantial advantage for White.


ECO gives only 7...h5 in reply to 7.Nf5, but two other moves played in high level games in 2008 complicate my preparations to play the White side.

7...g6 was played against Bobby Fischer in 1964 in a simul, and Fischer lost. It was played a few more times until Sequera Paolini-Alvarez, San Felipe 2008, which Black won.

7...Nc6, a standard Sicilian move, appears to have been introduced into practice in the Bundesliga: Gharamian-Nisipeanu, Trier 2008. That game ended in a short draw. However, a reasonable appearing novelty in a more recent game went badly for White. Perhaps these games deserve closer attention before moving on to 7.Bb5.

Adla,D (2508) - Meier,G (2641) [B81]
TOP 16 Poule Haute Le Port Marly FRA (10), 30.05.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 e5 7.Nf5 Nc6 8.Bc4N

8.Bg5 h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Qd2 g6 11.Ne3 h5 12.gxh5 Rxh5 13.Nb5 Qd8 14.0–0–0 Rh4 15.Bc4 a6 16.Nxd6+ Qxd6 17.Qxd6 Bxd6 18.Rxd6 Ke7 19.Rd2 Rxe4 20.Nd5+ Kf8 21.Nb6 Rb8 22.Bd5 Rb4 Gharamian,T-Nisipeanu,L, Trier 2008 ½–½

8...Be6 9.Bb3 h5 10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.Ne3 hxg4 12.Nxg4 Nd4 13.Nxf6+ Qxf6 14.Be3 Nf3+ 15.Ke2 a6 16.Qf1 Be7 17.Qg2 Rf8 18.Nb1 d5 19.exd5 exd5 20.Nd2 e4 21.c3 a5 22.Kd1 a4 23.Nxf3 Qxf3+ 24.Qxf3 Rxf3 25.Kc2 Kd7 26.h4 Rh8 27.Rag1 Bf6 28.Rg2 Ke6 29.Kd2 Rxh4 30.Rxh4 Bxh4 31.Rxg7 Bxf2 32.Bxf2 Rxf2+ 33.Kc1 b5 0–1

06 August 2009


At the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for another thematic tournament. This one features the Keres Attack, ECO B81.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 we have the starting position.

A quick glance at the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings is sufficient to intimidate most players unwilling to spend many hundreds of hours learning theory. ECO has no less than fifty-five lines. Chess Informant has published 608 theoretically significant games through its first 103 issues--three in the first issue and four in 103. In Predojevic-Movsesian, Sarajevo 2008 (Informant 103/151), 15...Nad5 was the novelty.

Black's responses from the diagram:

6...e5 lines 1-4
6...a6 lines 5-27
6...Nc6 lines 28-36
6...h6 lines 37-55

Where should I begin?

04 August 2009

Encyclopedia of Chess Openings

What does E04 mean?
Overheard at the chess club
Chess is a game of nearly infinite complexity, yet endings with six or fewer pieces have been solved and the openings have been analyzed in considerable depth at least since Friar Ruy Lopez (c. 1540-1580). In 1966, Chess Informant began publication twice yearly, later increased to thrice. Each issue of Informant contains the best games from recent tournaments, especially those of theoretical significance; many are annotated by the players. In 1974, Volume C of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings became the first volume published in what would become the standard five-volume reference work on opening theory.

Yesterday, the postman brought the second edition of the Encyclopedia on CD. It was part of my prize for placing fifth in Chess Informant's Best of the Best 1000 Reader's Contest.* Along with this electronic version of ECO came several CDs that complete my collection of Chess Informants, except for the most recent volume. With a few mouse clicks, I can check the published theory on a position in the Encyclopedia and in recent grandmaster practice.

Consider a position that is not uncommon for me: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 e6

Five moves present themselves as candidates:


I'm pretty certain that I've played all five. Through my ChessBase database program I can search my Big Database--an old version of this CB product that I keep up-to-date through weekly downloads of The Week in Chess--or ChessBase online. My resident database contains 289 games with this position; ChessBase online has quite a few more with 423.

With this mass of data, how does one find the relevant ones--those worthy of study? I have a select database and electronic opening book of games since 2000 played by masters. Searching it produces a mere 83 games, a far more manageable quantity. But, suppose some of the essential theory concerning this position derives from games played before 2000. I'm back to wading through many hundreds of games.

6.Ne5 takes us from E04 to D15, and possibly D17 or D11. One of the lines given in ECO continues with 6...e6, identified as a novelty when Murey played it against Benjamin in 1986, and published as an annotation to Stohl - Ehlvest, Tallinn 1986 42/471. 6.Ne5 ceases to appears in Informant after 1999, although it has made several appearances since then in high level games. Perhaps at the top levels that line lacks promise for White, even though it is quite playable at my level.

When I faced 6.Ne5 from the Black side, I lost on time in a bishop versus knight endgame where I had a slight edge. When I played it as White, I blundered away a rook in the late middlegame.

6.Qc2 is rare, and not the choice of the strongest players. My only foray with it led to victory in a three minute game on Playchess last August.

6.Nc3 is popular, but according to my CB Opening book has an inauspicious record for White. My score over five games is abysmal--20%.

My database of online games reveals that I played 6.a4 most often a few years ago, and 6.O-O most often in recent years. In both cases, I have scored well above average: 64% (eleven games) and 71% (nineteen games), respectively.

Informant 103/326 is the game Pashikian-Meier, Martuni 2008, which strangely is not found in the ChessBase databases. Martuni 2008 was the Lake Sevan International Chess Tournament pitting some of the strongest young Armenian players against players invited from elsewhere. Arman Pashikian won this game and the tournament. Georg Meier lost two games as Black from this position at this tournament, and fragments from both games were published in Informant. In both games, White opted for 6.a4. Ivanchuk also opted for 6.a4 in his first match game against Aderito at Khanty-Mansiysk (Informant 101/383).

My favored choice in recent years, 6.O-O was Peter Svidler's choice against Vallejo-Pons in the 2007 Monaco Rapid event. A portion of this game was published as Informant 102/(361).

With ChessBase I can find more games; with electronic versions of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and Informants, I can find the most significant games annotated by leading theorists.

*The contest winner was Russ Brown whose recently released CD, The Fugitive Peace, I am happy to recommend. Some reviews of the album note that his music starts good, and gets better the more you listen. That's certainly the kind of quality I would expect from a fellow reader of Chess Informant! I bought the album last week, listened to it three times through that day, and have it playing again now.

ECO Code is a trademark of Chess Informant

03 August 2009

Not Drawn

In a recent game on Chess.com, my opponent optimistically offered a draw from a hopeless position. Of course, I had a lot of moves to make yet, but they were not hard to find.

Muda,I (1921) - Stripes,J (1994) [B18]
Chess.com, 2009


White offered a draw.

42...h5 43.Rg8 Kh3 44.Rg7 h4 45.Rg6 Kh2 46.Rg7 h3 47.Rg6 Kh1 48.Rg7 h2 49.Rg6

49...Rf5 50.Rg7 b5+ 51.Kd3 Rf4 52.Kc3 Rf2 53.Kd4 Rg2 54.Re7

54.Ra7 Kg1 55.Ra1+ Kf2 56.Ra2+ Kf3 57.Ra1 Rg1 58.Ra3+ Kf4 59.Rh3 h1Q 60.Rxh1 Rxh1–+

54...Kg1 55.Re1+ Kf2 56.Rh1

56.Rc1 Rg1 57.Rc2+ Kg3 58.Rxh2 Kxh2–+

56...Kg3 57.Rc1

57.Rd1 Rd2+ 58.Rxd2 h1Q 59.Rd3+ Kf4 60.Kc3 Qe1+ 61.Kc2–+
57.Re1 Rg1 58.Re3+ Kh4 59.Re4+ Rg4–+


58.Rc3+ Kg4 59.Rxc6 h1Q 60.Kc5

60.Rc7 Rc1 61.Rxc1 Qxc1 62.Ke4 Qc3 63.Kd5 Kf5 64.Kd6 Qc4 65.Kd7 Ke5 66.Ke7 Qc7+ 67.Ke8 Ke6 68.Kf8 Qf7#

60...Rc1+ 0–1