Sunday, May 29, 2011

AAgaard Attacking Manuals Common Theme

Terry Francona, Manager of the Boston Red Sox, often talks about the importance of players having a respect for the game (Baseball) to show it through their actions on and off the field . His highest praise is when he says a player plays the game the right way. He consistently talks about this in press conferences and I'm sure this follows through in what he says to his team and individual players.  He is a class act. (yes, I am a Boston Red Sox Fan)

This reminds me of one reoccurring themes in Jacob Aagaard's Attacking Manual 1 & 2   , A short excerpt from the beginning of each book  appears at these links. 1 & 2 . I think of this theme as Respect for Chess , it's complexity and the difficulty to play it well. In these two books, he shows this and discusses this in many ways. I have found these ideas to be extremely well stated, interesting and good food for additional thinking. I have liberally quoted from his books in this blog. (The book quotes are italicized)

His following statement speaks to the trivialization of difficulty of the game among the general chess book reader and player.

I have included something I have not seen in other books. Before each chapter I have selected a number of diagrams representing positions from the coming chapter for you to consider, should you feel so inclined. It is my experience as a trainer, as well as someone who has had to work to improve, that “reading and nodding” (Daniel King) can create a false impression of how difficult chess really is. By thinking over these positions for up to 10 minutes each, you will have a first impression of what your intuition has to say about these positions, before I say what I think about them. Though we might never meet, this is a way for us to have a constructive dialogue.

I've noticed in general (but not universally) better players ( than I ) talk differently about the game and are more accepting of ambiguity. I've notice this in players I've talked to at tournaments as well as a friend I have analyzed with on (Thanks J!)  They are slower to make sweeping statements about a position and stay uncommitted longer to the value or discrediting a move or plan. I think Rowson has some interesting thinks to say about this trait of better players in his book Chess for Zebras.

Much in chess is unknown or unknowable or at least it can vary greatly from game to game.  Respect that these things are still being worked out and talking in ideas. As he wrote in the following.

Most often, decisions in attacking consist of such or similar trade-offs. This is what makes dynamic chess so interesting. Both players have a chance to win, as White is winning on points (static feature) and Black is winning on time (dynamic feature). This is also what makes dynamic chess so difficult. Though there are clear rules to follow, which can be translated into techniques,in the end all conclusions at the board will have to be guided by concrete calculation and gut feeling. Without the techniques, rules and so on that I will describe in these two books,you could be choosing the moves and ideas you want to calculate a little at random. After reading this book, hopefully your bias will be strongly towards the kind of decisions that are most commonly right.

Respect to play well requires not to fall to lazy thinking/slovenly play. (I'm guilty as charged , do as AAgaard says not as I do 8) ) He writes:
It is tempting to bring in the rook, but as we have just seen, we should never yield uncritically to the impulse of playing the most natural move without investigating whether or not it is also the best move. Chess is far too complicated to be played with a superficial approach.

He is also respectful to the readers needs and desire to improve and structures the book with this in mind.

Although I am a writer by nature, and place a high value on aesthetics, I am deeply aware that most readers will have picked up this book with the hope of improving their chess. My experiences and conversations with some of the best players in the World have strengthened my belief that it is very useful to solve exercises regularly if you want to improve your play. Although a well-written book can affect your play positively, it will do so much more if you are involved, rather than just reading it.

He is also respectful of other players and their play and speaks to their mistakes in a reasoned measured way.

Obviously those strong players had other ideas and somehow they did not work out, but we should also not overestimate the human ability or underestimate just how difficult chess is. We need all the help we can get to play this game just on a decent level. (a statement to which this blogger adds: Amen Brother!!!!)
and again:
During my research, I found it striking that serious mistakes were committed more often than not. If I had to guess, I would attribute the mistakes to the players’insufficient familiarity with the relevant patterns, not forgetting the simple fact that chess is just difficult!

Aagaard teaches mainly through game annotations and the selection is interesting in that most of these games have a poor move or two often on both sides of the board. Most games are recent and are played by GM's.

That being said he doesn't suffer fools lightly especially when it comes to the subject of chess commentary and the blind acceptance of computer analysis. In talking about chess coverage of his games and tournaments;

When I see my games annotated in newspapers or magazines by people who are not playing at the top level themselves,I meet the "Fritz Mentality". In it's simplicity its a kind of apex problem where people cannot understand that chess is very difficult as the understand it easily when they are looking at the tactical problems pointed out by Fritz

He then gives an example of a commentator disparaging Aagaard's opponents move as missing the obvious answer .An "obvious answer" that took 24 guess of audience in the commentary room.
An interesting side note to the respect for the difficulty of chess is that he doesn't lose sight that chess is a game not a computer exercise or a solved problem.
It is easy to get lulled into the sensation that chess is easy (rather than simple,which is something else)that chess should be played perfectly and other such nonsense.
Chess is very difficult and the chief task of the competitive player is to create problems for his opponent. The best problems are those that cannot be solved but before you create these you have to create problems that can. At best,very difficult ones. But which are they? How do you tell? Often by noticing that you do not know how to solve them either .

At the end of book 1,  as a preface to 50 study positions , he asks you to approach things in a special way.

It is for this reason, i suggest that you look at the next 50 exercises with the attitude of simply  thinking about them and enjoying the thought process. Chess is about thinking and improvements in chess come from improving the way you think. Do not test yourself as you should not try to reach a certain outcome but instead enjoy looking at these hopefully interesting positions.

I find it reassuring that a GrandMaster who won the British Championship, writes great books , plays and train at the high level acknowledges  that chess is a damn hard game and writes an advanced book (target audience 1700 +) that I can understand (somewhat) and enjoy.

I plan on working with this book further as well as study my more basic tactical themes and problems. The reality of my play is I'm still missing some basic tactics and need to build my base so that I have the chops to better use the ideas in this book.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tal: He was a man in whose presence others sensed their mediocrity.

Kasparov talks about Tal : What an interesting article.

I worked a bit with Tal. Around 1980, he visited Baku, we played a couple of training games, and the chess contact wasn't lost until Tal's very last days. There was a blitz tournament in Moscow, one month before Tal's death. He looked horribly. But Tal was still Tal. In this blitz tournament, I lost my only game to him. I retaliated in the second round, but the fact was that until the very end, he still had this vision of games. He was the only one I knew who didn't calculate the variants, he saw them.

EK: Can you elaborate?

GK: We calculate: he does this then I do that. And Tal, through all the thick layers of variants, saw that around the 8th move, it will be so and so. Some people can see the mathematical formulae, they can imagine the whole picture instantly. An ordinary man has to calculate, to think this through, but they just see it all. It occurs in great musicians, great scientists. Tal was absolutely unique. His playing style was of course unrepeatable. I calculated the variants quickly enough, but these Tal insights were unique. He was a man in whose presence others sensed their mediocrity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

KID Black to move

This is a challenging position from my game at playchess with an 1800 player . White is targeting the d-file and has it's eye on d7. The knight is a tempo away from a check and additional pieces on d7. I have discussed this position with a fellow player from and he challenged to come up with a workable defense.

I'm still thinking about this . It's very tricky. (here is the start)

Step One: Describe the position.

Material is even. The only thing off the board are the d-pawns. White: White is castled queenside and prepared to attack in the center and when available Kingside. Has a rook-queen battery starring down the d-file. His d5 knight can't be kicked by a pawns and can delivered a check on two squares. The f3 pawn is unprotected but not directly attacked and the e2 knight
is only protected only by the queen. White LS bishop is in a strong unblocked diagonal while the DS bishop is currently in a Queen Bishop battery and would benefit from more activity. His rooks are connected and desire open files.

White's Plans dependent on Blacks Move.

If white can't win get ahead in material with a combination in the center >attacking Nd7,Qd8. then f4 is in the air : looking to move the e3 pawn and opening up the f4 square for a piece and the attack. There will be a fight for the d7 knight which black needs to adjust for so he doesn't end up hurt in a combination.

Black Position and Plan.

White has an attacking position and black has plenty of work to do to cobble together a plan to defend and perhaps threaten to counterattack. What ever move black selects, it must effectively combat the following 4 follow-up moves by white bxd7, Nf6+, f4, Nc3 .

Black desires better coordination as of the back rank,Keeping black rooks from getting open files on the king-side, more active bishops, and exchanging off some of the white pieces and most importantly not losing material which is on the way if he doesn't play precisely.

Candidate Moves for Black:

I'm considering Ba6, Bb7,Nb8,Kh8, f6,f5, (more to follow plus editing)

I can eliminate Nb8. 1...Nb8?! 2. Bxc8 qxc8? 3. Ne7+ takes the queen
I can eliminate Ba6 1...Ba6 2. Nc3 and black has no escape route or defense for the knight on d7 :it loses a piece
I can eliminate Bb7 see Ba6

After looking at all the lines I could not find anything that didn't lose material. So I ran it through Fritz and that is the case . This position is plus 3 regardless of blacks move.

Endgame Position Black to Move and Draw (Corrected)

Hi All,

This is a correction of my previous post regarding Endgame which Chri (Blunderpuss) pointed out was in error. I referred to the wrong moves and the position is a little confusing . So I think it's better to correct it on a new post.

Note the board view here is from Blacks perspective. Black pawns are on h3 and g3, whites king is on g8 having just accompanied a pawn to be promoted (Queen no longer there,captured by black)

As Black, Down in material, this is a postion I was striving for in order to draw. Two connected pawns against 2 pieces.

This is a theoretical drawn position as confirmed by Fritz with Black.
In fact,two moves draw g2!! or Kh2!!.
218: Palmolive2010 - Takchess, Rated game, 35m + 0s 2011

Analysis by Fritz 12:

1. = (0.00): 61...Kh2 62.Rc6 g2 63.Rc2 Kg3 64.Rc1 Kh2 65.Rc2
2. = (0.00): 61...g2 62.Rc6 Kh2 63.Rc2 Kg3 64.Rc1 Kh2 65.Rc2

In the actual game, I played h2 ?? and lost.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yes, I would like to talk (and think) like a chess book

You may think me silly but ........ Yes, I would like to talk (and think) like a chess book and specifically Jacob AAgaard Attacking Manual 1 and 2 .

I like how Jacob annotates a game. I figure the ability to better describe and think about chess positions and how to play goes hand in hand with getting better. ( that's my theory anyway). Less Fuzziness : More Precision. Chess annotation is an interesting form of literature and is fun when it's done right.

This space is a little clipboard for things I read. It's unlikely to have much meaning to anyone other than myself and may appear somewhat trite . In order for you to get something out of this, I'll direct you instead to the books themselves.

For my own benefit, I've divided things in chess snippets but them under general subheadings. (note I adding stuff I hear , read, absorb from a number of sources here but for now mainly AAgaard)


Rules are standard replies that can be used in most situations. Generalizations are the best way to build an awareness to reoccurring themes in chess.... to build intuition.
His principles are global principles not because they appear in all positions but because they appear in all kinds of positions.

The Difficulty of Chess

It's JA impression that reading and nodding gives a false impression as to how hard chess really is.


Work and thinking about positions in a chessbook is much more fruitful than the reading and nodding approach. (Daniel King)
Regarding the chess positions in his book. They are hard, Effort needs to be put in before new abilities can be taken out.

Evaluation of a position

Blacks position is pleasant
control over the center
completed his development
solid lead in development

Activity/Development and lack of it

The most energetic response.
allows black to build up an attacking position.
completed his development
neglected his development
black is getting his pieces to more and more attractive squares
the sacrifice has a drawback of not being supported by all the black's pieces.


take the pawn and hope for positional rewards later on.
unfortunately it costs a lot of time

Soundness ?!

Black decides to go for an idea that is more interesting than correct.


His argument goes like this:


gives away the rook in exchange for disturbing the development.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

7 factors to evaluate a position per Karpov book

1. Material relationship between the forces.
2. Presence of direct threats.
3. Position of the kings, their safety.
4. Possession of open lines.
5. Pawn structures, weak and strong squares.
6. The centre and space.
7. Development and the position of pieces.

As a result of comparing these elements the chess player makes a statistical evaluation of the position, selects a plan of action and begins searching for specific moves and calculating variations.