Monthly Archives: June 2020

Chess Tactics: Chiburdanidze — Dvoirys, 1980

Maia Chiburdanidze wearing the World Champion wreath

Maia Chiburdanidze wearing the World Champion’s laurel wreath, apparently from her 1984 title defense. Photo: Georgia Today

Maia Chiburdanidze (born 1961) became Women’s World Champion in 1978 on her first attempt at just 17 years old. Only Hou Yifan has since bested this record, winning the title at 16 in 2010.

Maia defeated Nona Gaprindashvili, the Champion since 1962. The young Georgian title-holder defended her title on four occasions in the 1980s before losing to Xie Jun in 1991.

Here is a game I first remember seeing in Attack with Mikhail Tal from the Tbilisi semi-final of the 1980 USSR Championship. It is spectacular!

White to play. Can you spot Chiburdanidze’s concept?

12.?

Connected vs. Unconnected Rooks

How to Claim a Draw in Chess

Draw claims are less frequent than before

Nearly all games today are played with time delay or increment. As a result, “quickplay finishes” (FIDE) or the notorious claims of “insufficient losing chances” (USCF) are mostly a thing of the past. The players decide the result of the game between themselves, as it should be.

Draw claims are a lot messier when not using time delay or increment. Photo: Caissa Chess Store

Draw claims are a lot easier with digital clocks, which unfortunately means beautiful clocks like the Garde are less common. Photo: Caissa Chess Store

Still, knowing how to properly claim a draw is important for a tournament player in two main instances:

  • The 50-move rule
  • Triple occurrence of position

Note that this is different from offering your opponent a draw — I’ll cover that in a future post.

Draw claims don’t involve the opponent. You call over the Arbiter or Tournament Director, who then makes a ruling.

You can only claim a draw on your turn, with two possibilities: the key position has already appeared, or your next move would bring it about.

The 50-move rule

If 50 consecutive moves (by white and black) have been made without a pawn move or a capture, a player having the move can claim a draw.

Scenario A
50 consecutive moves have already been played without a pawn move or capture.

To claim a draw: Pause the clock, call the Arbiter, and state your claim.

Scenario B
Your next move will complete 50 consecutive moves without a pawn move or capture.

To claim a draw: Write down your next move, pause the clock, call the Arbiter, and state your claim. Do not play the move after writing it down!

In both cases, it is important to not start your opponent’s clock! If you do, it is now their turn and you cannot claim! There are no retroactive claims; If the position changes into one where a claim is no longer possible, you’re out of luck!

Tip
If neither player has made a claim after 75 consecutive moves without a pawn move or capture, the Arbiter steps in and declares the game a draw.

Triple Occurrence of Position

If an identical position has appeared on the board for the third time, the player on move may claim a draw. The position need not recur consecutively, but identical moves must be possible all three times. When thinking of Identical possible moves, also consider castling and en passant.

Scenario C
An identical position has occurred for the third time.

To claim a draw: Pause the clock, call the Arbiter, and state your claim.

Scenario D
Your next move will bring about an identical position for the third time.

To claim a draw: Write down your next move, pause the clock, call the Arbiter, and state your claim. Do not play the move after writing it down!

Once again, do not start your opponent’s clock!

Tip
If neither player has made a claim after an identical position has occurred five times, the Arbiter steps in and declares the game a draw.

Summary

Write down your next move (if necessary), pause the clock, and claim. Do not play the move you have written down, and do not start your opponent’s clock!

May you always make correct draw claims!

The DGT 3000 Chess Clock

What about other options?

Let’s discuss what I see as the two main competitors to the DGT 3000:

When I reviewed the Chronos, I noted that a big factor in its favor early on was its large display in comparison to other digital timers. Not only can other chess clocks now claim this as well, new Chronos clocks are more compact and therefore have a smaller display. I wouldn’t buy one for 110 USD today, but that’s just me.

The DGT 3000 costs roughly 80 USD. Earlier, I reviewed the DGT North American, which can be had for about half this amount.

Who needs to buy the DGT 3000? Anyone who uses DGT electronic boards and broadcasts games online! I was a DGT board operator at the Greater New York Scholastics this past February and became more familiar with this clock.

Features and Benefits of the DGT 3000

DGT 3000

The DGT 3000: officially endorsed by FIDE, and required if you want to broadcast games on DGT boards.

  • The display is huge and easy to see from a distance; much larger than the Chronos or DGT North American.
  • The plungers are large, easy to press, and not noisy.
  • The DGT 3000 seems sturdier than the DGT NA, and I would expect it to last longer.
  • Easier-than-expected to set. The big display provides more scope for the clock to make clear what a player or arbiter is setting. It is very easy to make a mistake setting the DGT NA, and trying to set a Chronos is downright confusing if you’ve never done it before.
  • It can accommodate U.S. time delay rules which its predecessor, the DGT 2010, cannot.
  • FIDE approved. This is important for official FIDE competitions such as World and Continental Championships.

This is all great, but is it worth twice as much as the DGT NA? As DGT itself says:

The fact that the DGT NA, in its display, does not add the delay time to the main time is the only reason why the DGT NA is not FIDE approved. According to FIDE rules and regulations the total time available to a player should be shown on the display at all times.Digital Game Technologies

This is a subtlety I missed in my review of the DGT NA. My bad!

Verdict

A player only competing in USCF tournaments where delay timing is prevalent can stick with the DGT North American — it is the best clock for the money. However, I believe the additional one-time investment for the DGT 3000 is justified.

If I were buying a chess clock today, I would choose the DGT 3000.

Chess Game Analysis: Triple or Quadruple

I’m sure these suggestions for chess game analysis have been mentioned elsewhere before, but let me share an effective way I studied my games when I was serious about improvement.

A chess game analysis method helpful for climbing this chart!

Better game analysis can help in climbing this chart.

The Method

  1. Make a database in ChessBase containing your tournament games. I call mine “My Games.”
  2. Play your tournament game. Really, you should have 60 minutes or longer of thinking time where you can give your best. Definitely use this method for multi-day events!
  3. Optional but highly recommended: Analyze the game with your opponent. Discuss the play with words and variations. This is the Quadruple Game Analysis variant.
  4. Enter the game into ChessBase and write detailed notes about it. Variations you saw and did not see, fears, emotions, internal distractions, general time usage by both players…everything you experienced during the game. At the end, enter a few paragraphs of summary: what you learned, things to improve, etc. If you did a post-mortem analysis with your opponent, include their comments and variations (noting the material that came from your opponent).
  5. Next, run your favorite chess analysis engine. Note that we do this after entering our own comments, to avoid computer worship! Don’t “correct” the previous analysis: you’re looking for resources missed in the previous analysis that radically change the assessment of a position (winning to drawing, drawing to losing, or winning to losing). Enter relevant comments into your notes. For example: “24…Rc7! 25.Ke3 Kf5 26.Be4+ Kg5 wins — Stockfish 11
  6. Email the whole thing to your coach and ask for their comments. They can enter notes into the game directly or type a detailed email summary. Alternatively, you can incorporate their comments during your discussion of the game during the next lesson.

What to expect from this kind of chess game analysis

A single chess game analysis using this method takes hours. It will bear fruit though, especially if you play fairly regularly and stick to the same openings (refining them over time). Commit to this method for 6 months or a year: your play will improve a lot, and you will move one or two tiers higher as a result.

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky: Great Chess Authors, Part 3

After Mednis and Euwe, the next author I want to shine a light on is Eugene Znosko-Borovsky! If you’re a more casual chess fan, you might be wondering: “Who, exactly?”

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (1884-1954)

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky. Photo: Julian Mandel. Source: Wikipedia

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky. Photo: Julian Mandel. Source: Wikipedia

Born in Imperial Russia, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky was a literary critic and veteran of the Russo-Japanese War and World War I before emigrating to France in 1920.

Znosko-Borovsky was not a professional chess player, but fared well in international competition. He scored victories against Bogoljubov, Burn, Capablanca, Euwe, and Rubinstein at various points in his career. The win against Burn earned him one of the brilliancy prizes at the monster Ostend 1906 tournament.

A player who can defeat opponents like those — who also happened to be a professional writer? That helps explain why his chess books can be purchased more than 80 years after he authored them! Few others can make that claim.

 

Five Books in English

Five Znosko-Borovsky books (written between 1934-1940) have been translated into English and can still be purchased today. Not surprisingly, these translations use Descriptive Notation which will put off many readers flipping through the book in Barnes & Noble.

The books are cheap, pocket-sized (thank you, Dover!), and cover all phases of the game.

The Art of Chess Combination

One of my earliest chess books, and my first on tactics and combinational play. it was here that I was introduced to kingside attacking ideas like the “Greek Gift” sacrifice (Bxh7+), Legal’s Mate, Philidor’s Legacy (smothered mate), Fegatello (Fried Liver Attack), and so on.

How to Play Chess Endings

A really helpful book! It helped me learn many elementary endings: the bishop and knight mate and some elementary rook endings particularly stand out. I won several games with Rook+g+h pawn vs. Rook endings because of what I learned here. My only criticism is the confusing part on related squares. Just skip it.

The Middle Game in Chess

I read this book much later in my chess career, when I think I was already over 2000. I liked the way Znosko-Borovsky explained simple concepts without going through reams of analysis. This could certainly be a first book on middlegame play, before going more in depth with other works focusing on tactics and strategy like Judgment and Planning in Chess.

How Not to Play Chess

I’m a firm believer that knowing what NOT to do can be even more powerful than knowing what to do. This easy-to-read book lists common mistakes you can avoid by being aware of them.

How to Play the Chess Openings

I haven’t read this one, so I can’t really comment. I would expect that it is outdated theory-wise but, knowing Znosko-Borovsky, a worthwhile read for the ideas of common openings that have not changed much over time.

What else is there to say? Try one of Eugene Znosko-Borovsky’s books and see for yourself. I think you’ll be convinced that he is indeed a great chess author for improving players.

Chess Tactics: Hermann — Charousek, 1896

Rudolf Charousek. Photo: ChessBase

Rudolf Charousek. Photo: ChessBase

Hungarian master Rudolf Charousek (1873-1900) was an immensely talented player who competed successfully in several of the world’s elite tournaments in the late 1890s.

Like Pillsbury, Charousek was struck down very young, dying of tuberculosis at 26 years old.

 

 

Test yourself in the following position after white’s 17th move.

Black to play. 17…?

My pieces have a failure to communicate!

Chess Castling

Chess Castling! The best move in the Royal Game, and one of its three special rules. The others are pawn promotion and en passant.

Let’s cover everything you wanted to know about castling, but were afraid to ask.

Chess castling

Black has just castled, and white is ready to do so on either side. Photo: Vera Kudryashova

Why is Castling a Big Deal?

In the starting position:

The rooks are stuck firmly in the corners and are usually the last units to enter the game. When we remember rooks are the second-most powerful pieces in the game (after the queen), it becomes clear that getting your rooks into play first can provide a big, often decisive advantage.

At the same time, castling also allows the king to flee the often-dangerous center for the calmer side of the board, and get out of the way! Still, the bigger reason for castling is getting the rooks into play, in my view.

The Mechanics of Chess Castling

  • Only with castling is a player is allowed to move two pieces on the same turn — the king and one rook.
  • The king moves exactly two squares towards one of his rooks, and the rook lands on the square between the king’s starting and ending squares.

Before:

After:

Correct Procedure

All chess moves are performed with one hand only, including capturing and castling. Use the same hand to move both pieces (and press the clock, if using one).

Castling is defined as a king move. Start by picking up only the king and move him two squares towards his rook. Then put down the king. Next, pick up the rook and move it to the square between the king’s starting and ending squares.

Do not pick up the rook first, and do not pick up both pieces at the same time.

Restrictions to Chess Castling

  • To castle, all squares between the king and rook must be empty.
  • Castling is not allowed if the king is in check.
  • Castling is also not allowed if the king crosses or lands on a square that is attacked.
  • If the king has moved at all, castling is not allowed for the entire game.
  • If one of the rooks has moved, castling is not allowed with that rook for the entire game.
  • Castling is allowed if the rook is attacked.

Casual players can stop here. Tournament players, read on…

Tournament Stuff

  • Castling is not allowed if a player touches their rook first. Only the rook can then be moved!
  • Notation. A white king castling towards his rook on h1 is kingside castling, written 0-0. A black king castling towards his rook on a8 is queenside castling, written 0-0-0.
  • Bonus Round: Repetition Claims! To claim a draw by repetition (the same position has occurred, or is about to occur, for the third time), the same moves and captures must be possible in all three positions. That includes castling and en passant.

Did I leave anything out? Post your questions or thoughts!

My First Chess Tournaments

Friendly competition can inspire a beginner

I changed schools entering 7th grade (M.S. 141 forever!) in Fall 1995 and began studying chess on my own the previous summer. Early in the school year I learned that Mr. Yurek, one of the school’s math teachers, sometimes organized informal chess tournaments after school.

The 1st place ribbon looked just like this.

1st place looked similar to this. Photo: Jones Awards

The tournament was conducted in knockout (elimination) style. Each match was a single game where we would “toss” for color (hide-pawns-behind-the-back). I still remember the excitement I felt when Mr. Yurek created the bracket and announced the pairings for each round!

The winner of the final would get the 1st place riboon, and the runner up would get the 2nd place ribbon. If you were knocked out, you could hang around and play casual games or just go home.

Department-store chess set

We used chess sets like this. Photo: Walmart

We didn’t have regulation tournament sets, and used the “checkerboard” chess sets one would find in a department store with the flimsy plastic pieces. We were careful with the equipment, however, and it wasn’t a big deal. To that point, I had never even seen a tournament set of the kind that would become so familiar to me. As you can guess, we didn’t use clocks or keep notation.

I remember blundering and getting knocked out by Lee in my first tournament. That lit a fire under me and I studied for the next event like never before! I was also less nervous and more careful, earning my first blue ribbon.

Many more would follow after that. I finished 7th grade with a 29-4 record, only being KO’d one other time that year (two losses came from casual games, which counted in our overall record).

I was the top player on the chess team.

Rated Competition

My first issue of Chess Life, featuring the 1995 Intel/PCA World Championship Match Kasparov-Anand at the World Trade Center(February 1996)

The February 1996 issue of Chess Life. Kasparov vs. Anand, 1995 Intel/PCA World Championship Match.

That holiday season I was gifted a USCF membership by a family friend. I was so excited to get the membership card and my first issue of Chess Life magazine!

In March 1996 my team played in a rated tournament at P.S. 9 in Manhattan. I remember walking into the auditorium and seeing the gleam of trophies on the stage. Every player who scored at least 2½ points out of 4 would get one.

I lost my first rated game in 17 moves to a kid rated 550; some kind of Italian Game or Two Knights Defense that went badly!

I won my second game, and for the life of me I simply cannot remember anything about it, despite the fact that it was my very first victory in rated play. Maybe it says something about me that I remember my losses more than my wins?

What I remember vividly is my state after losing from a better position to another ~500 in Round 3. Not winning, but better. For one of the only times in my career I was on the verge of tears. I wouldn’t win a trophy, and I was devastated. This is why I never, ever judge my students when their emotions overwhelm them.

I also remember channeling my rage against my unlucky Round 4 opponent, by far the highest-rated I faced, at 739! He was also the brother of my first opponent. I had white in some kind of Sicilian and just annihilated him.

The Journey Continues

My first provisional rating was 659. Once again, I was determined to improve and placed 2nd in my second tournament, also at P.S. 9. I got my trophy, finally.

Looking back, it’s amazing to me that my chess personality hasn’t really changed in 25 years!

In preparing for future tournaments, I also developed a quirk that remains with me to this day. I taught myself to move the pieces and press the clock with my left hand, while I keep score with my right hand! Many times over the years my opponents have been surprised when I have the black pieces and choose to have the clock on my left side!

What memories do you have from your first competitions, rated or not? Do you have largely the same chess personality as you did early in your chess career?

Max Euwe: Great Chess Authors, Part 2

In Part 1 we took a look at the chess career and many of the books of Edmar Mednis. Up for discussion today is Max Euwe.

Max Euwe (1901-1981)

Max Euwe. Photo: World Chess Hall of Fame

Max Euwe. Photo: World Chess Hall of Fame

Euwe, the Netherlands’ top player for decades, earned a doctorate and taught mathematics full time!

Despite not being a chess professional and playing sparingly, he improved by playing matches against Jose Capablanca, Rudolf Spielmann, and Alexander Alekhine, among others.

Euwe secured a World Championship match against Alekhine in 1935, winning 15½—14½ to become the 5th World Chess Champion. Alekhine won the 1937 rematch, but Euwe’s legacy was secure.

In his later years, the former Champion became FIDE‘s 3rd President (1970-1978).

Writings of a Bygone Era

Euwe was a brilliant author because he was clear and to the point. If you want excitement, look elsewhere — plenty of drivel is published each year to serve that purpose. But if you’re looking for pure, unadulterated instruction, Euwe has no equal.

The Bad News

Not all of Euwe’s books have been translated to algebraic notation. I assume this is a big reason the former Champion is not the most popular of chess writers. Well, I’ve got you covered: check out this primer on descriptive notation.

Middlegame Textbooks

Judgment and Planning in Chess taught me how to recognize the key features of many position types and play them successfully. Euwe tells you what you need to do and shows instructive examples. He doesn’t try to be entertaining or funny — it’s serious work for serious people.

Probably more popular are The Middlegame, Book One: Static Features and The Middlegame, Book Two: Dynamic and Subjective FeaturesI got these books much later in my chess career and didn’t read them in my developmental years, so I have less connection to them. Even so, I can’t imagine that careful study of these works wouldn’t help a club player immensely.

Best Endgame Book, Pound-for-Pound

A Guide to Chess Endings really should be more popular. I still reread portions of it from time to time, and the more I do the more I’m convinced of it’s greatness. The book gives very specific guidance on how to play the main types of endgames, well-illustrated with 331 examples. It also fits in your pocket, and thus cannot be compared with a standard endgame reference book.

Others

I recently learned about Strategy and Tactics in Chess and have skimmed parts of it. It looks like a great book, and I will surely read it one day.

Another famous Euwe book is Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur but I have not read this one. The book contains 25 (composed?) games between a master and a weaker player, annotated to help improving players. This idea has been imitated in other works, but I have to admit I stay away because I’m afraid of embedding bad patterns into my subconscious!

You can’t really go wrong by following the teachings of a World Champion! Especially as skilled a teacher as Max Euwe was. His math students must have been very fortunate to have him.

Online FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar: How to Prepare

Is the pandemic good for the online FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experience attending the 74th Internet-based FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar organized in early May by the European Chess Union. The course and final exam are a real challenge, and FIDE certainly doesn’t give away seminar norms!

WIth the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all seminars are being organized online. This has led to more courses, since arbiters don’t need to worry about travel expenses and logistics. I hope this factor leads to increased attendance as well.

Readers’ Mailbag

After seeing my earlier post, a reader sent me a question yesterday:

Hi Andre, How are you? I am attending FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar this weekend and I was wondering how should I go about preparing for the seminar and exam? Is there any thing you suggest I can do in the next couple of days that will help me to get the most out of the seminar? Thanks for all your help.A Reader

They asked not to be identified since they don’t want FIDE to think I’m giving unfair assistance (I’m not; I don’t know this person).

A prospective arbiter reaching out for advice is a very good sign. This eagerness suggests to me that the candidate will be successful in the course. Anyway, here’s my response:

Hi [Name], My main advice would be to download the 2020 FIDE Arbiters Manual and study it well. Especially the Laws of Chess and Competition Rules. Also get into the mindset about being more proactive when running tournaments, which is different from how USCF TDs are expected to be.Andre

You must be fluent with the material to pass the exam with 80%. From my previous post:

The exam is open-book, but having access to everything is not helpful in only two hours without being well-versed in the subject matter!

For USA participants: the biggest adjustment for USCF TDs working FIDE-rated events is being confident and ready to intervene in games. You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. As we say in New York City: If you see something, say something!

Other Things to Know for an online FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar

  • How to make pairings under the FIDE Dutch System.
  • The tiebreaks to apply under each tournament type, and how to calculate them.
  • The meaning of the FIDE rating system, requirements for a player to receive an initial rating, and how to calculate the rating change of a player. For practice, go to the FIDE homepage, search for your favorite active player and study their recent tournament activity with rating changes.
  • Regulations for direct titles, title norms, and title applications for players and arbiters. To practice: visit the titles page, study current applications and the norms that comprise them. Pay special attention to the numbers of rated and titled players, and host country/foreign opponents in a player’s schedule.
  • Anti-cheating measures available to arbiters.
  • Rules about default time, recording of moves, how games can conclude in wins or draws, and claims of all kinds.

Whew! That’s a Lot!

It is. Better to over-prepare than spend several days taking the course only to not pass and have to do it again! Keep in mind also that much of your two hours will be spent typing short answer responses to questions. Usually, you need to explain actions you would take containing several steps. Attention to detail is very important.

Good luck!