Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kramnik the Best of All Time?


At Susan Polgar's chess forums, a poster asked if Kramnik could be called the "best ever":

He has a positive score vs kasparov, anand, ivanchuk, topalov, svidler...Has won
long matches vs kasparov, topalov (3-2) and i think he will have no difficulties
to beat anand too.Has won a number of big tourneys, although he is only 32.His
understanding of the positional factors and his endgame technique are really
outstanding, not only nowadays but in the whole history of chess.Somebody can
argue that players like kasparov or fischer had higher %, and this is partially
true but, that is caused mostly by kramnik's lack of ferocious wish to win.In
terms of pure chess talent, beauty of play, harmony of ideas i think kramnik is
really beyond all other champions of all ages; and i have studied about 6000
games in my life so i have "seen" all the bigs in action...Waiting for opinions!
I found the question interesting, and looked into a few GM's overall records. This was my response, and I am interested in your thoughts on the question as well:

Kramnik has a lot of work to do if he is to be considered as the best ever, as he has an overall win percentage that is lower than just comparing to Fischer and Kasparov.



Robert James Fischer Win percentage (72.6%)*
Garry Kasparov Win
percentage (69.4%)*
Jose Raul Capablanca Win percentage (72.1%)*
Alexander Alekhine Win
percentage (72.9%)*

Vladimir Kramnik's (63.0%) needs a fair amount of improvement. But as you said, the man is still young. He is also playing in the forefront of an accelerated technological generation that is producing chess tools never before available.

Over time he could rise to the level you currently hold him at, but he still has a fair amount to prove. Plus as time rolls on he will be facing younger and stronger players raised and immersed in technology and the benefits that has to improving their chess skills. Time will tell, and I will be very interested to see how things shape up over the next few decades.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

www.jrobichess.com coming along ...




Development continues on http://www.jrobichess.com/ at a fairly good pace. The site is geared towards connecting my chess initiatives (blog, forums, grandmaster match collection, computer chess tools, videos, etc) in a streamlined process to allow for one link that will access everything. While it is a slow process, it is definitely fun!

One of the main hurdles currently is obtaining the ability to generate tactical positions on the site server for image linking on the forums. We are experiencing challenges getting the forums to display java-related information. An alternative is to have a tool on the site that will allow visitors to enter positional data and then have the server generate an image which can be placed into the forum posts. In the long-run I would like to be able to have visitors upload entire PGNs with annotations which can be displayed in the forums as well in a graphical manner.

This stuff is all new to me, and I would like to thank Christian for helping me out in this endevour. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will have something up that meets one or both of our goals. If you know of a solution, we would absolutely love to hear about it!

If you visit the site you will see how construction is coming along.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Voters Speak!

The question this week was if joining a chess club was beneficial. The breakdown of the votes went as follows:

No. (0%)
Yes. (80%)
Depends on Club (20%)

Not a big surprise there at all - but personally I think a couple things are important. First, the atmosphere. Is it a friendly club or a "kill or be killed" club? It's an important question. My personal opinion is that if you can't learn at a club, then it's not really a club but a meeting place for competition. Now that's not a bad thing, but learning needs to be a big emphasis if a person wants to improve their game.

This week's poll focuses on one of the chess world's largest icons, Bobby Fischer. If Bobby Fischer, due to his health problems, were to pass on, what would he be remembered by most in future generations?

Looking forward to the results.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Blog Look

The look of the blog has changed, and the reason being is that I am in the process of creating www.jrobichess.com which is going to be a "hub" of my various chess initiatives. This format for the blog seems to work best with the site design I am presently working with. Feel free to visit what I have so far and leave feedback on the forums.

Bobby Fischer Hospitalized in Serious Condition

According to Susan Polgar and certain sources, Bobby Fischer is in a serious health crisis and has been in a hospital for several weeks. His wife and closest friends can't be reached for confirmation, but a neighbor says that Fischer is going through some major health issues. When I hear more I will post immediately to the blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gary Kasparov Imprisoned!

Kasparov, who has been working hard at reforms in Russia, has been sent to jail for charged with organizing protest, resisting arrest, and chanting slogans.

For the full article from CNN - click here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Forced Patience

With a handful of pieces still on the board, having your king in front of your pawns is usually a bad idea; venture too far into enemy territory, and your king will be a rabbit on the run.

However, the hunter still has to find the right moves to make the most out of an exposed king. In calculating a position such as the one below, we're prone to think along forced lines: "I check, he has to go there, then I check here, he goes there, I check here, he goes there, etc. etc.". The challenge is to find the one move that does not immediately force things, but rather paves the way for a forced win. Look at the board. White to move -- do you see the rabbit trap?


Bd5 was my original plan (the rook at a8 is trapped). Then I started pondering f4+, luring the king into a mating net. I began calculating -- f4+, Kxe4, Re1+, Kf5, Bd3+, Kg4, ... at that point, I more or less convinced myself that after Kg4, there had to be a winning continuation (even though I didn't bother calculating things out).

What I should have considered in my calculation, however, is the one quiet move that seals the deal! After 1. f4+ Kxe4, White has the move 2. f5! -- the king cannot escape, and Black cannot bring in any defenders, either. 2. ... Bxf5 3. Re1#!

Lesson learned: in calculating forced variations, watch out for quiet moves as well.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Launching New Forums!

I like the blog in terms of people being able to post on specific entries, but I want a more stable way to keep discussions going. To solve this I created new forums which you can register at and participate in discussing a variety of things related to chess. I am planning on adding new features to the forums as things roll along. Check them out and looking forward to the discussions that will come! The direct link to the forums is http://www.jrobichess.com/forums/.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Voters Speak

Last week's poll was what time limits are best for amateurs for online matches in order to improve positional play. The vote spread was as follows:

10m/player (12%)
20m/player (0%)
30m/player (50%)
60m/player (37%)

This week's poll focuses on the importance of participating in real over-the-board chess clubs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taser Murder in Canada

Generally I keep this blog totally chess related, but as a Canadian I was absolutely disgusted by the recent taser death in one of our international airports. It boggles my mind how anyone could try and justify what these cops did after watching this video.

Here is the video of 4 Canadian RCMP members ending the life of an innocent man who spoke no English, and was just waiting to meet his mom at the airport. It turns out he was at the wrong area to meet her and was waiting for 10 hours, but that mistake cost him his life, and for what? Absolutely nothing. The police involved need to stand trial for manslaughter. Don't get me wrong, I support the police usually 110% but this was not police work, this was murder. As horrible as the event was, I am glad that a citizen caught it on video tape, and fought for the right to obtain his video after the police confiscated it to make it public for people to see what really happened.



Yes the man was upset and agitated, but he did not need to get tasered, and then have someone sit on his neck with their knee while tasered again. This man made no aggressive move to the cops whatsoever, and was outnumbered 4-1. The cops made the decision to use violent force, and they did not need to do that.

I support our police in general, but these cops need to be held responsible for killing this man. They didn't even try CPR when they realized he was not breathing. Pathetic.

A Polish Man's Trip to Canada

Where has my mother gone?
She said she would be here.
2 hours now completely alone,
People staring as if I were queer;

I don't understand anyone here,
Their chatter is like a busted T.V.;
4 hours alone, no one but me,
Mother might be lost I fear;

I just want to see her face,
To hug her and get away;
6 hours alone is a very long day
In this god-forsaken place.

I am getting a bit annoyed,
The flight was more than enough;
8 hours now watching bags deployed
Will cause anyone to get in a huff.

Something must be really wrong
Can't they see I need to talk?
10 hours here is far too long,
This day just needs to stop.

Finally! Here comes some cops!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Got Zugzwang?

I reached this position with Black after 44. ... h5:


My opponent and I had already been mumbling about a draw, but I insisted we play on for a couple more moves. Turns out that Black is winning, thanks to zugzwang! Once the pawns on the kingside are stuck, the White king will have to relinquish the protection of the c5-pawn. Black can then take the pawn and proceed into a winning endgame.

Lesson learned: if a situation looks hopelessly stuck and drawish, check again, and see if the position's got zugzwang.

Here are two illustrative positions from Bruce Pandolfini's Weapons of Chess:


In the first example, White is winning regardless of whose move it is; in the second example, whoever moves first wins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Video: Exploring www.letsplaychess.com / www.chessworld.net



I have found this site to be very good for positional analysis, and an excellent addition to live online play. Of course I will continue to play live servers online just as much as before, but this site helps one analyze the position without the worry of time controls, leading to better positional play in timed online games.

This video explores some of the features that I like, and is a general introduction. I plan on making an advanced features video at some point when I get more comfortable with the options available. To set up your account, visit this link and register. You can decide if you want to pay the low annual fee or if you just want to try a guest account at no charge.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Voters Speak!

This week's poll expired this morning. The question was how much the online world (blogs, videos, etc) has helped your chess. The votes came in as follows:

A little (0%)
A fair amount (20%)
Definitely a lot (70%)
What's online mean? (10%)

I am very excited to see how technology shapes the coming generation of competitive chess players! With software that performs and helps train at Grandmaster levels, coupled with the rising popularity of chess videos and online resources, it's a very exciting time for chess!

Make sure to weigh in on this week's poll which deals with the impact of online game time limits on chess learning potential.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

King's Gambit

Recently, Kingscrusher has been video-annotating the 11-0 sweep of Fischer in the '64 U.S. Championship (and I highly recommend his videos). While watching the game against Evans, Fischer employed the King's Gambit opening and won what seemed to me to be a creative and energetic game.

After watching, I played a few blitz games using this opening and have found the games to be a fun departure from the typical 1 e4 e5 games, which sometimes can result in symmetrical positions that are less interesting. The Gambit actually seems to have a fairly high success rate. I have noticed in my games that the system allows for:

1. White to take control of the center
2. Wild and Sharp play for both sides
3. and it has something of surprise value since it is infrequently played.

I have actually found this opening both fun and useful!
Although I do not offer my analysis as masterful, I have put up a couple of games that have some useful tips and ideas.
Check out video #1
Here you can watch Video #2, which I think may be more instructive (at least on how NOT to play against the gambit):

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Voters Speak!

The results of last week's poll asking whether or not draws should be removed from impacting competition results are:

Yes (30%)
No (70%)

This is an interesting issue and debate that is being discussed on a number of online sources, including Susan Polgar's chess forums. I will post another poll in 6 months or so and see if the results change or if they stay around the same percentage.

Hope everyone's weekend was a good one!

Jeremy Silman's Training Time Recommendations


In a recent interview, Jeremy Silman (author of a number of good chess books) made the following training recommendations for players ranked under 1900:

Tactical puzzles: 15% of study time.
Studying Positional Concepts: 15% of study time.
Analyzing/deconstructing your own Games: 30% of study time.
Analyzing Master Games: 30% of study time.
Openings: 10% of study time.

He also recommended purchasing his book "SILMAN'S COMPLETE ENDGAME COURSE" which I have purchased personally and am finding to be very good so far.

Jeremy Silman's web site can be accessed here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chess Controversy: Draws in Competitive Play

It's game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Hockey. 3rd Period, 2 minutes to go, tie score. A coach calls a time out and walks over the other bench, and offers the other team a draw, giving each team 3.5 points, and an equal share of the Stanley Cup. Possible? Not on your life! The fans would drop the sport completely and denounce it as professional competition. Pockets of fans would remain, but the media and news organizations wouldn't bother covering the event any longer. Why bother - draws can be decided before the contest even begins by competitors lacking integrity, and there will never be a sure-fire way to determine if it was rigged way before the contest even began. Why give worthwhile news coverage to events that are questionable before they even start! Such doubts are what destroy competitive sports as soon as fans start to believe deals are being made behind closed doors.

What does this have to do with chess you might be thinking? Well, consider the following scenario:

A group of Grandmaster competitors converge on a highly anticipated tournament. 3 GM's of a field of 12 play their hearts out, with their supporters keeping track on internet blogs and chess servers of their progress. One GM has a score of 11-0, one has 10-1 and the other has 10 and 2. The GM with the score of 11-0 offers the GM with 10-1 a draw fairly early in the match. The GM being offered the draw has lost against the current leader 4 out of their last 5 encounters, and does not want to split the prize fund for second place if he drops to 10-2. Or in some formats, he might simply want to avoid having to fight for second place. He accepts the draw.

The winner claims the prize with a 11.5 point total. Second place claims the prize with a 10.5 point total, and the last GM finished 3rd with 10 points.

Who loses out in this example? The GM's? Maybe the 3rd place GM if it was a format where he would have had a chance at playing to win second place. But honestly, it's the fans of chess that lost out the most along with the credibility of the competition in general.

Now let me say this: Draws and Stalemates are extremely important to chess. But I question their importance in competitive play. If tournament participants reach a draw or stalemate, it should be at the credit of their good play, but it should not end there. There should be a rematch until a clear winner of that 1 point is determined. If someone can force a stalemate or draw, good for them. They might very well have salvaged a losing position. However, their only reward should be another shot at that 1 point against the same player.

Would it make tournaments longer? Sure! Just like overtime in any other professional sports. Fans love it! The media loves it! Everyone is waiting with baited breath to see who will rise above their competitor and finally secure the win!

I believe this is where chess needs to go. There can be no doubts, chess is really suffering from a lack of media coverage and exposure. How many newspapers covered the results of the recent championships in Mexico? None around my area, and from what I am reading very few in North America in general. Questionable draws and tournament results over the years have turned many media organizations and people in general away from the sport of chess. Many believe that results are rigged when draws end up altering the outcome of tournament results - and can we blame them?

If chess is going to gain popularity and media coverage, things have to change. The issue of draws is just one thing, the overall organization of how world champions are selected is another. In its current form, Chess has too many things working against it that is stopping it from reaching a mass audience and an equal share of coverage that chess enthusiasts like us know that it definitely DESERVES!

I am looking forward to your thoughts on this discussion.