Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pawn Centres II: Closed Centre

In our previous instalment we looked at the open pawn centre, which is characterised by the absence of central pawns and open e/d-files. In the closed pawn centre, on the other hand, the pawns stand in each other's way:

This structure resembles a road block: the pawns hamper piece movement through the centre and block the e/d-files. Players preferring a slow, defensive game may feel more at ease in such positions. Attacking players could resort to flank attacks or attempt to open up the centre using the c/f pawns.

Closed centres guard against early tactical onslaughts; therefore king safety is less crucial than in open positions. Sometimes, a king behind a closed pawn centre is safer even than a castled king. Development is less urgent, too: if you wish to attack, you have to manoeuvre your pieces around the pawn centre, giving your opponent ample time to set up a defence. Knights are often more powerful in closed positions than bishops because the pawns block the bishops' diagonals, whereas knights can move around rather easily and occupy outposts in the enemy territory.

In a closed pawn centre strategic planning is paramount. Spotting potential weaknesses in your opponent's pawn structure and piece placement will help you determine the right time for further pawn advances. Be patient. If you encounter an opponent who is used to play tactically and aggressively, see if he or she is trying to force things; an early attack in a closed position, once fended off, likely leaves certain squares and pawns in the attacker's camp vulnerable.

Further, players equipped with some endgame knowledge often benefit from closed centres in that they have something to ponder in a seemingly innocuous position (e.g. transpositions, piece & pawn exchanges, pawn structure) that might help them making slightly better moves. In any case, as soon as the pawn centre locks down, keep an eye out for endgame tactics involving doubled pawns, passed pawns, connected passed pawns, rook pawns, etc. and place your pieces accordingly.

Here now is a game between Heinrich Wolf and Akiba Rubinstein, Teplitz-Schönau 1922. Midway through the game, Wolf decides to close the centre -- a mistake Rubinstein is "quick" to exploit.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Magnus Carlsen Ties 1st Place at the Corus Chess Tournament

Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian are the joint winners of the 2008 Corus Chess Tournament from group A. This is a major achievement for Carlsen, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that this young grandmaster is going to be a major force to contend with over the chess board, out performing the World Chess Champion Anand, and many other notable chess icons such as Vladimir Kramnik.

Securing the win in group B was Movsesian, which earns a spot in group A next year, and winning group C was Fabiano Caruana which earns him a spot in group B in the next tournament.

Overall, it was a great tournament with many interesting things happening all throughout. And of course, it is the tournament that was taking place when the chess world lost one of its greatest players of all time, Bobby Fischer.

For all matches and rounds please visit www.jrobichess.com.

Fireworks at Corus Chess Tournament!

Anand is in a heated match with Kramnik - if he wins, he will tie for first along with Aronian and Carlsen!

Corus Chess Tournmanet up for Grabs!

Talk about a close tournament! The Corus Chess Tournament of 2008 is basically up for grabs in the final round, which should be an extremely interesting one!

The previous rounds can be viewed online at www.jrobichess.com in the tournament section (lower left of main page) and here are the standings after round 12:

Standings after 12 rounds:

Group A

1. L. Aronian, M. Carlsen 7½
3. T. Radjabov, V. Anand 7
5. V. Ivanchuk 6½
6. V. Kramnik, S. Mamedyarov, M. Adams, P. Leko 6
10. J. Polgar, V. Topalov 5½
12. P. Eljanov 5
13. L. van Wely 4½
14. B. Gelfand 4

Group B

1. S. Movsesian 9
2. E. Bacrot, N. Short 8
4. P. Harikrishna 7
5. I. Nepomniachtchi 6½
6. D. Stellwagen 6
7. Y. Hou, J. Smeets, E. L’Ami, I. Cheparinov 5½
11. H. Koneru 5
12. M. Krasenkow 4½
13. W. Spoelman, G. Sargissian 4

Group C

1. F. Caruana 9
2. P. Negi 8
3. D. Reinderman 7½
4. F. Nijboer 7
5. P. Carlsson 6½
6. S. Li, M. van der Werf, A. Braun, J. van der Wiel, I. Krush 6
11. E. Grivas 5
12. A. UsheninaZ. Peng 4½
14. D. Ruijgrok 2

Honoray Group

1. L. Ljubojevic 4
2. V. Kortchnoi, J. Timman 3
4. L. Portisch 2

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Voters Sound Off

Last week's question focused on what exactly constitutes "cheating" on online servers. The results were interesting:

Using Engine Books (3%)
Following Opening Explorers (0%)
Inputing Moves Generated from a Computer (23%)
Anything that does not come from your own brain (30%)
All of the above (43%)

This week's question focuses on whether or not the FIDE should create a rule regarding handshakes in chess competitions. As you will recall, there was quite the media storm at the Corus Chess Tournament this past week regarding this very issue.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Corus Chess Tournament 2008: Round 11 Wrap Up

Round 11 has wrapped up from the Corus Chess Tournament. Some very interesting games, with Anand defeating Carlsen.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Playing Bobby Fischer to a Draw

One of my favorite blogs to check out is Pawned and a YouTube video was posted there with a gentleman speaking about a draw he obtained against Bobby Fischer in 1964. It's a very interesting video, and make sure you check out Pawned and add it to your favorites.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Corus Chess Tournament 2008: Round 10 Underway

Round 10 is underway at the Corus Chess Tournament, and already some very interesting games are shaping up!

Standings after 9 rounds:

Group A

1. L. Aronian, M. Carlsen 5½
3. V. Kramnik, T. Radjabov, M. Adams, V. Anand 5
7. S. Mamedyarov, V. Ivanchuk, V. Topalov, P. Leko 4½
11. J. Polgar, L. van Wely 4
13. P. Eljanov, B. Gelfand 3

Group B

1. S. Movsesian 6½
2. E. Bacrot 6
3. N. Short 5½
4. P. Harikrishna, I. Nepomniachtchi, E. L’Ami 5
7. D. Stellwagen, J. Smeets, I. Cheparinov 4½
10. H. Koneru, M. Krasenkow 4
12. Y. Hou 3½
13. G. Sargissian 3
14. W. Spoelman 2

Group C

1. F. Caruana 7
2. D. Reinderman 6½
3. F. Nijboer, P. Negi 5½
5. A. Braun, J. van der Wiel 5
7. M. van der Werf, E. Grivas, P. Carlsson 4½
10. S. Li 4
11. A. Ushenina, I. Krush 3½
13. Z. Peng 2½
14. D. Ruijgrok 1½

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Corus Chess Tournament 2008: Rounds 1-9

The PGN files for rounds 1-9 of the Corus Chess Tournament have been updated on www.jrobichess.com. In the site viewer you can select by round, player, and match. Today Aronian joined Carlsen in the lead, but the tournament is still considered to be wide open for the taking.

Bobby Fischer Laid to Rest

Bobby Fischer was buried at a private ceremony in southern Iceland. At Fischer's request, only a few people attended the funeral, including his companion Miyoko Watai and his spokesman Gardar Sverrisson. The church he requested to be buried at was the Laugardalur Church outside the town of Selfoss in Iceland

His funeral marks a quiet end to a very explosive life. Bobby passed away at 64 years of age, which in poetic fashion is the same number of squares on a chess board.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nigel Short defeats Ivan Cheparinov in Highly Anticipated Rematch

Nigel Short successfully defeated Ivan Cheparinov in their scheduled rematch today at the Corus Chess Tournament. This match was definitely the most talked about so far in the Corus Tournament, not because of the chess played but the media coverage of the initial incident where Cheparinov refused to shake the hand of Short.

It has been an interesting story to follow, and I am glad that it was settled over the board, which is how it should be. Both players shook hands at the beginning and at the end of the match.

Here is the PGN of the game played between the two today:

Ivan Cheparinov Issues Public Apology for Unsportsmanlike Behaviour at the 2008 Corus Chess Tournament

Ivan Cheparinov issued the following statement regarding his refusal to shake hands with Nigel Short at the Corus 2008 Chess Tournament. His apology letter can be viewed here.

Many videos and discussions on the incident have surfaced on the internet. Of recent interest is this video which goes into detail as to how the situation was finally corrected:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Short - Cheparinov Video Clearly Shows Unsportsmanlike Behaviour

The video clearly shows Nigel Short offering his hand for a shake on two occassions to Ivan Cheparinov at the 2008 Corus Chess Tournament. Initally the match was declared a win for Short, as there was an assumption that FIDE rules prohibited such displays of unsportsmanlike conduct; however, it was later determined that such a rule did not exist as of yet so a rematch is set to take place. This match will undoubtabley be watched by many around the globe!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What Impressed me most about Bobby Fischer's Chess

If I was to pick the most impressive aspect of Bobby Fischer, I have a lot of options to pick from. For instance, his monumental Cold War victory over Spassky or his long undefeated run in Grandmaster competition are just a few of many great accomplishments Fischer has achieved.

However there is one thing that impressed me the most about Bobby Fischer, and that one thing was that he was self-taught. So many Grandmaster today have achieved their accomplishments due to a great deal of help from others. For instance, the success of the Polgar family is openly credited to the focus and training they received from their father, who devoted his life proving that genius could be created. Other Grandmasters such as Karpov or Kasparov had an entire national support team devoted to chess, and they benefited greatly from those resources. Even the young Grandmasters of today utilize many things to improve their games, from chess coaches to the most powerful software analysis tools.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with getting help to improve in chess, but when you look at Fischer there can be no doubt that the majority of his skill and technique was self-taught. He was able to accomplish this because of his passion and love for the game, along with the motivation to prove that he was the best the world had ever seen.

So if I had to select one thing that impressed me the most about Bobby Fischer, it would have to be the accomplishments he achieved from his own hard work as a young boy growing into manhood. He was, and always will be, a strong testament to the notion that passion and love can take you places that might seem impossible to all those around you.

Bobby Fischer's Challenge Low on Anand's and Kasparov's Priority Lists?

In recent articles circulating the internet and from news sources such as this one, facts are coming out detailing Bobby Fischer's recent challenges to the current World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand, and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.

According to the various sources, Fischer tried to set up various matches of chess 960 (Fischer Random Chess) in India against Anand, along with other attempts to face off against Garry Kasparov. Both challenges were met with supposed "interest" from Anand and Kasparov, however, both players claimed that scheduling issues stopped them from participating. It is unclear what scheduling problems Anand had, but Kasparov at the time was embroiled in political workings in the former Soviet Union.

Regardless of what happened, it is clear that Fischer was prepared to stand up against these two renowned chess icons and face them on the chess board. His challenge was never answered, unfortunately. Nonetheless, Fischer had the courage to face the world's current champion in a tournament setting, and knowing Fischer he was probably very prepared to notch one last notable victory on his belt.

Just as there are 64 squares on a chess board, so also is there 64 years of Fischer's life for many generations to come to explore and look at with wonder and curiosity. Poetic justice - no question about it.

Rest in peace Bobby - you will be missed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer has Passed Away

Bobby Fischer's death was reported by the associated press early this morning. Fischer, arguably the world's greatest chess player, was born in 1943 and had a full and rich life in the world of chess and went on to represent his country in a time of high tension during the cold war in his famous match with Spassky in 1972.

Bobby leaves us a lot to remember him by, and not only in the world of chess. Although people were very critical of his recent anti-war anti-American statements, there can be no question that the world in general has lost a very influential and interesting personality today. Fischer was 64 years old.

For the full story, please visit the associated press.

Rest in peace Bobby.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Corus 2008: Rounds 1 - 4

Rounds 1-4 are now available from the Corus Tournament on www.jrobichess.com You can browse on the site all the matches by round and player. Scroll down on the main page until you get to the tournament list, and click the Corus 2008 link and it will open up for you and you can make your match selections, etc.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Corus 2008: Explore Rounds 1-3

Rounds 1-3 are now available from the Corus Tournament on www.jrobichess.com You can browse on the site all the matches by round and player. Scroll down on the main page until you get to the tournament list, and click the Corus 2008 link and it will open up for you and you can make your match selections, etc.

Corus 2008: Explore Rounds 1 and 2

The Corus Tournament is really getting heated with excellent games being played by some of the world's best GM's. I have added rounds 1 and 2 on www.jrobichess.com so you can browse by round and by player. The link for the rounds are on the left-hand side of the page in the tournament section.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Voters Sound Off on Cheating

This week's poll asked if people believed they encountered cheating while playing chess online, and the results were as follows:

Never (15%)
On occassion (47%)
Fairly Often (26%)
Almost Always (10%)

This week's poll focuses on what constitutes cheating when playing chess online. For instance, some sites allow the use of engine opening books which can be 40+ moves deep. Other sites openly allow all computer help.

On the other hand, various sites and servers try to police any kind of computer assistance and ban users who are found to be doing these sorts of things. So in your opinion, what constitutes cheating in online play?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Corus Chess 2008

Tomorrow marks the start of the prestigious Corus Chess 2008 tournament in Wijk van Zee, Netherlands. Eight of the top ten GMs battle it out over the course of two weeks. The Corus website offers live broadcasts of the games, which start around 2.30pm GMT. So if you are, like me, currently staying in New York, and enjoy having a couple of high-class live chess games running in the background, get up at 9.30 tomorrow and visit the Corus Live Viewer.

P.S.: If you happen to live in New York and are up for an OTB game, drop me a comment!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Young Chess Player on YouTube

A user named Sax31 posted on my channel today letting me know about his new chess video on YouTube and I really enjoyed his thoughtful analysis especially at his age!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

James Bond Chess

Nice little clip from FlowerDrumSong showing a chess scene from a James Bond movie - I absolutely enjoyed the glaring looks!!!

Managing the Odd Slump in Performance

Chess slumps happen to the best of people - even GM's like Bobby Fischer who struggled a bit early on in the infamous Spassky series. However, the key is how to get out of the slump and understanding what it really is.

Awhile back I wrote a bit on chess frustration on the blog. From my experience, frustration with chess comes just before a rating surge, no matter how large or how small the rating surge will be. I used the comparison of a race horse waiting for the gate to open because when a person studies chess, they learn new things, but there has to come the time when they are able to put those into practice. During this particular stage is what gives rise to frustration.

A slump, on the other hand, might just be a signal that more learning needs to take place, or perhaps a good refresher of things learned in the past. What can cause a slump in one's improvement? A variety of things obviously, but I would wager that it's more often than not the consequence of less "work" in the pursuit and practice of chess knowledge.

For instance, over the past few weeks throughout Christmas, I have been too busy to do a lot of the things I was doing with chess before the break. A consequence of that was a decline in my overall performance coupled with an urge to play 'blitz' more often due to limited time. Blitz is fun, but can be dangerous in that bad habits persist from match to match, whereas longer time-limits and more analysis fend off positional mistakes.

The solution for me was very simple - slow down, get back to basics, resume studying, and play less blitz and more longer time control matches.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject of what you have done to get out of slumps or what you think causes them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poll Results

Last week's poll dealt with personal chess rating goals for 2008 and here are the results:

1000-1200 (0%)
1300-1400 (13%)
1500-1600 (20%)
1700-1800 (46%)
1900-2000 (13%)
2100+ (6%)

This week's poll focuses on online chess and cheating. To put this into perspective, recently on www.chess.com a cheater posted an apology for cheating on the site. The post has since been removed, but it hasn't been the first of its kind and most likely won't be the last.