Friday, October 28, 2005


I achieved a remarkable feat the other day. . . . four consecutive draws! The phenomenon is weird since I generally only draw about 7% of all my games. According to my math the probability is roughly 1 in 50,000 to have four draws in a row (based on my current 7% rate).

To celebrate this event, I have posted this picture (probably my favorite chess-related cartoon). I love the irony of it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"Chess Parade"?

I love this game as much as the next fanatic, but a chess parade? Come on... while we should all embrace our dorkiness, we don't need parades. Look at these poor kids! In ten years, they are all going to be telling their therapists how their parents made them march in this thing.

And why does Chessbase have to include that little kid on the far left picking his nose?!?!? C'mon, you are featuring him in a chess parade. That'll get him beat up at least for a couple weeks. But you also have to include a shot with his finger up his nose... that's just friggin' cruel! This kid will be in therapy for years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Under Pressure.....

Well, when you're rushed, you make mistakes. As in life, as in chess. Here (see Diagram One), as black, I am facing a pretty tight endgame. The advanced pawn and the guarding rook have been driving me nuts for most of the game, and I eagerly looking for away of doing away with one or both of them. But how... if at all?

Well, unfortunately, my thoughts on this consumed up all my playable time, and with less than one second left (no exageration!) I chose the dubious 1... Rxc7?. There are several much more playable moves, but the key is to focus on why this move is such a loser. What I failed to notice is that minus, the c7 white pawn, the e4 black pawn and the two rooks, this is an easy win for white. The white king, can just waltz over to the king-side and snatch up black's remaining pawns. (See Diagram Two). The black king, forced to c7 to take the white rook, simply can't get back in time.

Now believe it or not, I actually drew this game. A tit for tat.... white making a horrible endgame move. I got very lucky. After my key mistake, this was clearly white's game to win.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Defensive Tactics

I have always felt that it is easier to see forks, picks, pins, x-rays, etc. from an offensive standpoint. That is I can more easily spot, for example, a fork I can execute with my knight, then play moves correctly preventing my opponent from using a knight fork on me.

I do not think this is a coincidence. All tactics programs and books focus on tactics from the offensive prospective. This is only fair. An offensive tactical problem demands the reader to play one accurate move. A defensive tactical problem would demand the reader to avoid making a key move. In the former, a reader would be "right" with only one (or usually only one) key move (i.e., the move leading to where the fork, pin, etc. could be executed). In the latter, the reader is "right" if he or she makes any move other than the move leading to the fork, pin, etc. This is a subtle but profound difference. How could a book be composed of defensive problems? when 99.9% of all the moves are viable and correct?

Here's an example my current troubles:

This is the position (see diagram 1) I faced in a recent game. As the reader can see, as white, I am a pawn ahead. However, I am nervous by the black a-pawn and the fact that it has the a8 rook providing a strong defensive cover for it. Fearing the worse, and not really thinking throughly (once again, time pressure was looming its ugly head), I went with the obvious, but clearly wrong 1. Rxa3?.

This only lead to diaster. After this move came, 1... Rxa3 2. Nxa3 Bd6! And now I am facing an awful a bishop attack on both my knights. (See Diagram 2). Nothing can be done. One of them will clearly fall to the menacing bishop.

As soon as I played 1. Rxa3 I saw this unfold. Too little, too late, huh? But after that move, then I could visualize black's attack, and no longer was I examining the position from a defensive perspective.

It's an interesting self-observation. Now how do I rectify it, I have no idea! But as they say, the first part in overcoming one's shortcomings is to identify what that shortcoming is.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Top Chess Websites

If you type "chess" in GOOGLE, you are going to get a hundred million (exaggerated, but probably not overly so!) amount of "hits." 99.9% of these will be pure, unadulterated crap. It's amazing how much knowledge one can gain from the internet, but it's also amazing how much trash there is. On that note (and the fact that I am having a slow day at work!), I am going to sum up what I think are the best chess sites around:

1. (Free Internet Chess Server (FICS)).

In my humble opinion, this is the best place to play online chess. Why? Several reasons. First, it has a large number of people on it. Have you ever requested a game on other servers and have no one respond? I have had this happen on FICS, BUT I can count how many times in the last three years this has happened on the fingers of my right hand. In short, it rarely occurs. Second, it has incredible features. Right now I have it set up where every game I play is automatically e-mailed to myself. This has been incredible in analyzing and inventorying my games. Other features include an online lecture series and online tournaments. Third, it has an adjudication feature. Tired of people wimping out and logging out on you when you are up two full rooks. Well FICS has an entire system for making sure you get the win, even if your opponent conveniently gets disconnected. Fourth, it is absolutely free!!!! Can't beat that!!!

Caveat: FICS (like most chess servers) has the same peanut gallery clogging up the chat lines. (Generally, conversations can be muted, but, of course, not easily filtered. So muting conversation generally runs the risk of missing something worthwhile or important). Politics, religion, philosophy.... you name it, it is usually debated endlessly on this site. It truly baffles me how people go to chess sites to sit there and not play chess!

2. (Chess Tactics Server)

"Chess is 99% tactics." I am not sure if I 100% agree with that quote, but there is no question tactics are important. As such, every chess player should know about this site. It is an inventory of tens of thousands of tactical puzzles. It includes all themes (i.e., forks, pins, etc.) and has problems for every skill level. What's more incredible is that there is a "quiz" type function that allows a person to test their skill with all the problems. You will be given a problem and given a score based on if you got the problem right and how fast you did so. As your score goes up, the problems get harder, as your score goes down, the problems get easier.... in short the problems reflect your performance. This sounds unextraordinary, but it is not. Because of this, problems rarely ever repeat and you are never thrown problems that are way above your head (or way below it!).

Caveat: This site seems designed for blitz play. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. However, to advance your score you must often answer problems in 5 seconds or less-- an amazingly short amount of time. This is good for me, since I generally play blitz games and always have "time trouble," however, this fact has drawn many people away from this site.

3. (

Without question the best "social" chess site out there. Want to talk about some obscure opening or an even obscurer chess player? There are people on this site who are not only willing to listen, but are willing to actually respond! No chess subject is too remote or too mundane. The site's "Kibitzer Cafe" is a gold mine of chess thought and commentary. The site also features daily puzzles/games that users can discuss. The site also covers in realtime (or close to it) high-level matches and tournaments where again people can comment and discuss them. Feel isolated? Feel like a great big chess dork? On you can openly boast your knowledge of Morphy, Steintz, and Pulgar -- and instead of being shunned, you will be idolized!

Caveat: has the same problems as any other website with chat features -- idiots and morons! People love talking about politics or about how other users suck. Blah, blah, blah. Second, and more disturbingly (since it can easily, or at least I think it can be easily fixed) the site's posting room has only one posting. In short every new posting is perceived to be a comment from the last. So if I post something about Morphy, and somebody responds totally off subject about the King's Gambit, that second post is treated as a comment from the first. Sounds like not a big deal, right? Wrong! With hundreds of people posting it becomes very easily to lose your post in the shuffle. Unanswered posts, an inability to determine who someone is responding to -- these are all horrible problems for this site. Third, the site has features that only paying members can use. This is perfectly fair, but obviously takes away from the site.

4. (Chess Position Trainer)

This is not so much a website, but a download. Either way, it is phenomenal! How many chess books do you have on openings? Where are they now? Sitting on a shelf unused in years, collecting dust, right? This site will brings those books back to life! The site allows you to enter a pre-set of opening moves and then quizzes you on them. Thus you can easily memorize all your major openings. By presetting the moves of a chess book, you can then have all the major lines of that book easily memorized. Oh, and once again, it is perfectly free!!!

Caveat: On a basic level the download is not particularly user friendly (not atrocious mind you, but not good either). The system needs a lot of work. On a more conceptual level: what is the utility in memorizing openings? Many say you should memorize the themes of openings (i.e., developed pieces, pawn structures, etc.) as opposed to memorizing actual openings. Is this true? You be the judge. It's awesome to have the first 10 moves of all major lines of the Sicilian defense memorized. Am I a better chess player for it? Yes, if my opponent plays one of those 10 lines. But if he plays an 11th line I haven't memorized... guess what -- all my memorization won't mean anything. And as I have learned, there is always an unmemorized “eleventh line.”

5. (Shane's Chess Information Database (SCID))

What SCID lacks in name, it makes up for in sheer excellence. This is by far the best database organizer I have seen. It allows you take millions of games and arrange them by player, year, opening, etc. This is all pretty common, but SCID allows other amazing features. It has an ability to search games by piece positions (common) and number of pieces (uncommon). In other words, you can find all games where it is two pawns versus one pawn (regardless of position!). It also allows you to determine what your win/loss ratio is according to what opening is played. For example, this is how I was able to tell I win less than 20% of the time against the king's gambit! The program even has a feature that tells you where your pieces tend to be played during a given game. Thus, for example, after a thousand games I am able to determine that my queen almost never leaves her queen side. Oh, and once again, can you say -- FREE!

Caveat: I can honestly think of none! Still more features would be nice, but I just love this program.


I love chess books! I think part of me more enjoys collecting them than actually reading them! Well, this website is my absolute favorite place to buy chess books. The gentleman in charge is a saint of a man, who is a sincere and generous chess enthusiast. It is not uncommon for him to throw in free score cards in with my orders, and he is excellent at recommending books. A first class merchant, this is the website to go to for all your chess literature needs.

Caveat: Sadly chess books are expensive. I think this is because demand is relatively low (compared to most books) and publishers can't use high-volume sales to make up for publishing costs. has some really fantastic prices (far better than most websites!), but on a personal note, I just can't afford very many books. That and there really is a wealth of stuff on the internet that is usually free. I think chess books are generally going the way of the dodo. I could be wrong. But I think chess authors need to rethink their trade and that websites are going to be the future of chess publications. We've seen it happen with music (itunes and similiar services are totally replacing CDs), chess books might go the same route.


This is your best, most detailed source for chess-related news. Games, tournaments, players, you name it.... if it is chess news it is here.

Caveat: Some will wonder why I didn't place this in the top chess websites. It is the best at what it does -- provide chess news. But largely, I don't find chess news all that important. Yeah, there is some major chess tournament in Milan. Yes, Fischer's extradition to the United States was unsuccessful. Yes, Susan Polgar is touring the United States with the former Soviet Union Premier Gorbochav. But really... who cares? Many people do! However, I am not one. Ulimitately, like most news sources, the articles here are hit or miss (some are interesting some are not). It all depends on the reader! I personally think has more misses than hits, but that's my humble opinion.

Spammers SUCK!

I got barraged with no less than four separate splogs ("spam" + "blog" = "splog") last night on my dead rat posting. I saw that there some 5 comments, and was wondering if my picture of a large dead rodent really generated that much discussion. Turns out every single comment was just spam!

I am very annoyed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dead Rat

This is 100% (well 95%) non-chess related, but I thought I would share with everyone the latest traumas affecting my life. . . . namely RATS! I was sitting at my computer playing chess the other night (that's where the 5% comes from) when I heard one of the many rat traps in our condo go off. I race to the kitchen open up the drawyer below to find this (albeit dead as a door nail) beast!

I added the beer bottle for scale... note how the tail is almost as big as the bottle.

Ahh, I love city life!.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Two paths diverge in a wood . . . .

(Eyesofblue vs. Maguey)
(FICS Game)
(White to Move ... and, well.... not screw up!)

Decisions.... decisions... decisions.... As Robert Frost suggest, the simplest of them make "all the difference."

Here, I face such a dilemmna. I am smart enough to realize that the f6 bishop needs to go, but the crucial question is how. 1. Bxf6 or Nxf6. Well, I tried 1. Bxf6?? Disaster soon followed. 1... Nxf6 wins the game.

The white knight is being attacked three different ways, and it can't flee or 2... Qxd4 will occur. That poor knight fell on the next turn. Clearly, 1. Nxf6 was the correct move.
In all this was a horrific mistake. I am embarrased by it. I do note that it occurred over three years ago when I just started playing online chess, and I vaguely recall being under crazy time pressure. But I really hate making mistakes so obvious.

Chess Vacation

Well, I have a couple days of vacation I need to take before losing them to our company's vacation day policy system. Turns out the girlfriend just got a new job and can't take any vacations in the near future.

So I am flying solo on this one!

Can anyone recommend any chess-related vacations? Without the ol' ball and chain around, I wouldn't mind totally "dorking out" and hitting some chess-related events or places. (You know... places you'd never be able to convince the girlfriend to go to if she was coming along!).

I know there is apparently some kind of chess cruise in January? Anyone going? Any other ideas?


Cricket vs. Chess?

I have been very distracted from my chess playing due to a new love interest... namely, cricket. It's a weird story... similiar to the same strange tale (see my first postings) on how I got into chess. However, as with chess, I once again find myself hopelessly addicted... much to the bewilderment of all my friends, family, and girlfriend who know nothing about the game and are dumbfounded by my lack of interest in "more American" games.

Despite my new found fling . . . chess is still there.

In between "knocking over some wickets" and practicing my "bowling," I have been finding some time for some quick FICS matches and doing some puzzles on chess tactics server. The good news(?) is that with fall firmly setting in there will be less and less chances to hit the outdoors…. thus I expect a full chess resurgence in the next couple months.
I have a lot to explore. Of special note, I have run into a lot of problems with playing the Gruenfeld lately. I am having problems with the king side g7 pawn placement, and (believe it or not?!) also the kingside's pawn structure. I feel like my position becomes very easily cramped and overworked (I lost one game on a really nasty bishop knight pin the other day). The interesting thing about the Gruenfeld is that though I prefer it (i.e., I'll do everything in my power to get the position there), it is relatively rare. 1. d5 Nf6 is so rarely followed by 2. c5. Thus, I feel like it is an opening I have neglected for the more likely 1.e5 openings. I do have a book on it that probably is worth reviewing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I am alive!

Sorry, folks. Work has been keeping me super, super busy. That and I have developed a new hobby, that has been stealing me away from chess. But no fears.... I am still playing, and we'll continue to posts on this blog!