Tactics Update

So one nice thing about finding myself with some extra time on my hands is that I have been able to fairly easily keep to a training schedule.

What I’m mostly hoping for with the tactics work I’m doing (15 minutes a day of simple tactics – i.e. not logging in and using chesstempo) is to get faster.

Much faster.

Here are the three days I’ve done so far…

Date Day Correct/Missed
7/1/2018 Day 1 16/5
7/2/2018 Day 2 16/6
7/3/2018 Day 3 22/4

As you can see, not logging in means that the tactics I’m getting fed are quite simple.  However, this is very useful for increasing my speed at simple tactics.

Here is an example of one of the problems that I’ve gotten when not logged in.  I’ll give the solution at the end of this post.

Everything in this puzzle is a forcing move.  There are no quiet moves or intermezzo’s to worry about.  For those types of moves endgames studies are the way to go!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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The solution to the puzzle above is 1.Nxg6+ hxg6 2.Rf5+ gxf5 3.Rxf5#

Review of Evil Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi

It should be well known to readers by now that I am a pretty serious fan of the Soviet School of Chess.  As such I have always enjoyed the writings of chess author Genna Sosonko.

As Genna was born in Leningrad and grew up there before emigrating to the West just shy of 30 years of age he has always been uniquely suited to cover the Soviet era for a Western audience.  However, this was mostly done in the form of his articles for New in Chess magazine, which from time to time would be collected into book length compendiums.  In order to get a fuller picture of someone you had to hope that another story would be written in the future.

Then a few years ago I heard that he had written a book about David Bronstein which was out only in Russian at the time.  I was really looking forward to the release of that book in English.  When it came out it did not disappoint (and you will see a review of that book in the future on this blog!) and so I was hopeful that Genna had more in him.

Imagine my delight when just a few months later the book Evil Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi was released!

Much has been written about “Viktor the Terrible” including quite a bit by Viktor Lvovich himself.  Of course I recommend to everyone reading this to seek out those works.  Included would be My Life in Chess, his autobiography; Persona Non Grata, (formerly known as Anti-Chess) his book about the 1978 World Championship match with Karpov; and his lengthy Afterword for The KGB Plays Chess written by Gulko, Popov, and Felshtinsky.

While those works are great, and are highly recommended by me, the picture of a person is never completely accurate when it is told only by them.

Enter Genna Sosonko. The “Half a Century” portion of the subtitle could refer to two lengths of time.  The first is from 1957, when the two first played in a simul given by Viktor, through 2008 when they played their last game (both of those games were drawn, though between them were numerous other games, including wins for both, though Korchnoi managed a strong plus score) and the second is from 1969 when the two began a professional relationship which lasted until Viktor’s death in 2016.

Sosonko approaches this book in the same way that he has approached the various pen portraits which he has become so known for – brutal honesty.  However, underlying all of that is what comes across as a very deep respect.

Korchnoi was a rather late bloomer for someone who would become a world championship contender.  While he began playing chess at an early age, he didn’t begin playing seriously until he was around 12 and started going to the Leningrad Pioneer Palace.  There, one of his trainers was the legendary Vladimir Zak who also trained luminaries such as Spassky, Kamsky, Salov, and Yermolinsky.

Even with all of the resources now available to him it was not until age 20 when Viktor achieved his master title.  After achieving this title it was still another nine years until he won his first of four Soviet chess championships in 1960.

By December 1969 when Sosonko first came to work for Korchnoi as a second Viktor had two appearances in the Candidates cycle under his belt.  He would then spend the next 20+ years as a regular fixture in the world championship cycles.

It’s at this point in Korchnoi’s life that the narrative of this book really takes off.

For the next two years Genna and Viktor spent quite a lot of time working together, but during that period Sosonko felt himself growing apart from the Soviet Union and he began to seriously consider emigrating to the West.

In March of 1972 Sosonko visited Korchnoi at his flat and said that he had taken the decision to give up chess and emigrate.

At this time in the Soviet Union chess players received a decent stipend and chess was a well-respected pursuit.  So to walk away from this was a truly monumental decision which was not to be taken lightly.  Once someone emigrated the odds that they would ever see their friends or family again were very slight.

For these reasons Korchnoi tried to talk him out of this decision, but there was no persuading Genna.  His mind was made up.  In August 1972 he left the Soviet Union and headed to Israel, from where he shortly made his way to his long time home in the Netherlands.

While it seems that Korchnoi at first thought the decision to be an incorrect one, it was only a short couple of years later that Viktor began having the same thoughts.

Leading up to the 1974 Candidates Matches a campaign was undertaken in the USSR in which the direction that was being promoted by many, including former World Champion Tigran Petrosian, was one of youth over experience.  As the former generation had lost the title to Fischer, it was Petrosian’s contention that the generation of Karpov should be the one to pursue reacquiring it.

After some public back and forth, Korchnoi was thrown off of the Soviet National Team for the period of one year, ostensibly to teach him his place.  As this precluded Viktor from travelling, and as he understood that his career was fully at the whim of Soviet officials, Viktor decided that it was time for him to leave too.

Unlike Sosonko, who was able to obtain an exit visa and emigrate legally, Korchnoi knew that the only way for him to leave would be to defect.  There was no scenario in which Soviet officials would allow an elite level grandmaster to leave on a voluntary basis.

So it was in July 1976 when Korchnoi learned the phrase “political asylum” from English GM Tony Miles and defected after playing in a tournament in Amsterdam.

With the restrictions of the Soviet Union behind him Viktor was now free to travel and play as he pleased and it was here that his career really took off.  He played in the next two world title matches in 1978 and 1981, and then continued to play in every candidates cycle until 1991.

Once they were both residents of Western nations Korchnoi and Sosonko were able to resume their lifelong friendship, as well as some professional work together as well.

What I have written above is quite well known to me.  What was not so well known to me was the period of Korchnoi’s life after 1991.  Mostly this is due to the fact that I myself stopped playing and following chess from 1992-2011.  However, even since my return details about Korchnoi were always a bit in the background.

Sure, I knew some of the major details, such as Korchnoi’s World Senior title, his win over Caruana in 2011 at Gibraltar when Fabi was 61 years Viktor’s junior and already rated over 2700, and the fact that Viktor became the oldest national champion recorded when he won the 2011 Swiss Championship at the age of 80.  The day to day details though…those I had no idea about.

Genna covers this period of Viktor’s life in great detail.  He discusses how as Viktor aged he cut more and more out of his life until he was only interested in chess.  Gone were former loves for things such as poetry, music, etc.  All were pushed to the side for Caissa.

This single minded focus allowed Viktor to maintain an extremely high level of play.  In fact, at age 75 he was still number 85 on the Top 100 list.  By far the oldest player to be so.  For comparison, today the oldest player on the list is Nigel Short, who at age 53 finds himself in 88th place.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Whether you are like me and consider yourself a student of Soviet Chess history, or if you have no idea at all about the Soviets, but are just a fan of chess and a good narrative, this book will keep you glued to the page.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

 

Tactics Redux (Again!)

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know that I’ve had a constant battle with tactical acumen.

I’ve spent years trying to figure out the correct approach to solving.  I know that it’s important, but I’ve struggled at times to figure out how much/how long/how difficult.

What I’m doing now is combining two things, one which I learned from IM John Bartholomew, and the other which I recently learned from soon to be FM Andrzej Krzywda.

John told me years back at a camp that “15 minutes a day” should be sufficient for tactics at my level.

Andrzej said in his Perpetual Chess appearance that he solves simple tactics by using www.chesstempo.com but without logging in.  This means that instead of getting fed tactics at your rating you just get fed some simpler tactics.

The hard solving in Andrzej’s studying comes from endgame studies rather than difficult tactics.  But of course the idea remains that constant solving is the key to improvement.

So what I did was relaunch my 100 days of tactics idea, but in this logged off mode.

Now what I am tracking is number of problems solved vs missed.

So for instance on day one I solved 16 and missed 5.

Since my last “100 days” attempt I have still continued to solve tactics on a daily basis.  Primarily through apps on my phone.  This will just require me to be a bit more disciplined as I’ll need to track the time used.

I won’t have to track the correct/incorrect though as ChessTempo is kind enough to do that for me 🙂 – I’ll just need to reset it each day.

As I was recently laid off at work I now have a lot more free time during my day, and I am trying to make use of some of it for chess.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Move Order Matters

Since I started working on solving studies on a more regular basis I have noticed that I often pick up on the themes, but that I have a tendency to not get the move order correct in a meaningful way.

Take this study by Kubbel for example.

It’s White to move and win.  Feel free to set a clock for ten minutes as I did and try to work through the solution.

Quite often in these drills I find the same thing repeating itself.  I will start at the position for some time trying to figure out the nuances, then just as I start to make sense of the position I’ll only have a few minutes left and so I rush through working on a solution and I’m not getting it quite correct.

My assumption is that if I just stick with it eventually I’ll see the ideas quicker and be left with more time to calculate without getting into such “time pressure” and missing stuff like this.

Here is the solution, including the failed move order I selected:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Finally Got a Study 100% Correct!

The subject says it all!  After several attempts over several days I finally got a study completely correct!

Here it is…

You will find the solution at the bottom of this post, but I encourage you to spend ten minutes on it first, just like I did!

Since I heard Andrzej Krzywda on Perpetual Chess recently I have been following his advice and solving studies.  Really the idea is just to immerse yourself into a position for a length of time (in this case ten minutes) and work on calculation.

I wrote about it a few days ago with this: http://ontheroadtochessmaster.com/solving-studies/

At that time, and until now, I hadn’t solved any completely correct, including any side variations, but finally that’s a thing of the past!

Let’s hope that this continues.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

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Solution…

1.Nf7 Ba1 2.Kb1 Bc3 (or d4, f6, g7) 3.Nd6+ Kxc7 4.Nb5+ (or whatever square will fork the king and bishop depending on the alternate moves listed above…)

1.Nf7 Bd4 2.Nd6+ Kxc7 3.Nb5+

 

What Could be Better Than Josh Friedel? More Josh Friedel!

On today’s episode of Perpetual Chess Ben Johnson interviewed my friend and coach Josh Friedel.

You can listen to that interview here, or wherever you get your podcasts from!

This winds up being quite timely since Josh just started a weekly YouTube chess improvement series called “autopsy” in which he breaks down a game to describe what the “cause of death” (the loss) was.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the blunder that ended the game.  Instead it can mean what went wrong from a strategic standpoint to cause the blunder.

Here are the first two episodes of Autopsy.

Fair warning, the first one has some minor technical difficulties which are largely corrected in the second one.

I assume they’ll continue to get even better as time goes by!

I hope you enjoy all of this as much as I did!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Solving Studies

For the past several days I have been working on solving at least a few studies each day in order to work on improving my calculation.

I have been taking Andrzej Krzywda’s advice and using Kasparian’s Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies book.  I give myself ten minutes on the clock and then I start calculating.  When the ten minutes is up then I stop and whatever I have for the solution is what I go with.

I have yet to get a single one completely correct (meaning main variation and any sidelines), although in many of them I have at least found the main idea.  I’m assuming that as I spend more and more time on this that the accuracy will eventually come.

Here is my favorite one so far!  Have fun!

It should be noted that the studies in this book are designed to be relatively simple rather than insanely hard.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Let Andrzej Show You The Way – With Chessable!

Long time readers of this blog have probably heard me mention Ben Johnson’s podcast Perpetual Chess.

I really enjoy the podcast, and I typically get a lot of interesting tidbits out of the interviews.  There have been interviews with people I have been friends with for years where I still learn all kinds of cool information.

This week’s episode was a bit different from the normal interview of either a titled player or someone running a chess business.  This week Ben kicked off his Adult Improver series where he will conduct interviews from time to time with adults who are working to improve as players.

For the inaugural episode he chose Polish CM Andrzej Krzywda.  Andrzej is an interesting case study.  He’s 38 with a wife and two young kids and spent around 20 years being rated 2100 FIDE.  Three years or so ago he decided to pursue the IM title.

Recently he made an IM norm with a 2579 TPR in a strong round robin event.

He wrote about the experience in this Reddit post.

Here is the interview itself.  Listen to it as you will be amazed by Andrzej and his work ethic and dedication.  I know I was!

One of the things that Andrzej mentions several times in his interview is the site https://www.chessable.com/ 

I started using this site a few days ago for openings work, and oh wow has it already made a massive difference.

I’ve never been one to enjoy studying openings.  I used to have a phenomenal memory, but these days it’s maybe slightly above average at best, so I just never felt like putting in the work I felt it would take to learn lines cold.

Since I also tend to play really sharp stuff at times this was leading to some truly avoidable issues where I was getting terrible positions making basic mistakes.

So I started using chessable to build a repertoire.  I can tell you that the process will be slow going because it does take a bit of work to add your lines to the site (unless you have pgn files which you can just import) but I can already tell it will be well worth it.

After only four days I have an extremely sharp line I play as White memorized 22 moves deep – and it’s sticking in my memory!

Once I get all of the sharp stuff I play into chessable and get in the habit of drilling it daily until it’s a part of my chessic DNA I’m expecting to finally perform at or above my rating in the openings.

Naturally I don’t plan on suddenly spending all of my time working on openings.  That would be an anathema to the way I work on chess.  However, with chessable it seems like I won’t have to.  Because of the way it drills you on your lines and then repeatedly has you go over moves that you missed it doesn’t take much time to be able to solidify the ideas in your head.

Of course you can also use chessable for endgames, tactics, books, etc.

I heartily recommend that everyone try it out.  Just join and grab one of their free opening books and go through it.  Right away you’ll have a great feel of how the site works and how they will do the repetitive drilling to help with memorization.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

GM Huschenbeth Shows How to Solve Tactics

German GM Huschenbeth shows the correct approach to take to solving.

I really enjoy watching strong players show their approaches to calculation.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Simple But Elegant

Here is a nice game played in Round One of the Budapest 1896 tournament.  This game was won by Polish master Dawid Janowski, who at that time was an up and coming player.

First, the position which is White to play and win.  The solution is simple, but it’s very demonstrative of the inherent beauty which lies within the heart of every chess game.

Here is the entire game to enjoy!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.