Books II

I have been doing some practicing with the book “Anthology of Chess Combinations”. Great book, I would recommend it to the typical reader of this blog.

Here is what I’ve discovered in my ACIS quest so far:

Know your checkmates as much as possible. Really, this is the thing most important to commit to memory if there were really a book on it with hundreds of diagrams.

Find the candidate moves – this is more of a blundercheck in a way because it’s not too difficult to, say, spot 6 or 7 candidate moves in around 15 seconds. You will probably know what your two favorite choices are after a couple minutes, if not sooner.

The key to solving these puzzles, besides working through each line diligently so that things are not missed, is to “determine how the position is overworked.” The rest is about knowing your checkmates and spotting tactics.

Some problems, I am able to spot alternate solutions not listed – in one case 4 different mates were left out! in another case only one winning line was left out. I even found a “typo” impossible line because a pawn was blocking the square, but the actual solution was simple/forced/short. On another problem I spotted the initial move, winning a piece quickly, but the answer was a mate.

Here is another thing, this doesn’t help my “FICS games” hardly at all. The reason is that, besides many players wanting to win on time, is that for me I can have board vision, and calculate virtually nothing, or I can look for combos and not have board-vision enough to spot something dropping right in front of me, but I can’t do both on “internet time”. A combo from out of a book, depending on how elaborate, can take nearly 15 minutes which is a whole Standard time-control game on FICS. It is time-consuming to look for an opponent’s counter-moves.

For example. I played a 20 or 25 minute game on FICS today with an 1890 rated player. Here is the descriptive version of it: He had a winning combo but chose a useless fancy line instead, winning one pawn instead of two. I outworked him and won a piece. In time pressure, I try to defend and attack, obviously moving my queen from defending my knight, he doesn’t see it even though they are right next to each other. Now I figure out where to put that hanging knight, missing that his rook and mate in 1 is hanging. We play on and he wins on time. I am sure the guy is a strong player, but this is not the equivalent of “1890 OTB”, rather it is 1890 in “internet time” or quick chess, however you want to call it. I will say though that blitz is great for trying out new openings and gaining some pattern recognition that way, but it’s not really about solving “slow problems” accurately – it’s more about defending and building board-vision.

One interesting thing that I have observed is that some weaker players do what I used to do, and now it works against me. They will spend forever on the opening, then play the middlegame quickly based on intution, then stop as soon as they see the first blunder and methodically play out the win slowly but surely. The first part is so boring that I have to read something else to keep from losing my sanity. I bring the screen back up after they move, make a quick move, and if it’s a blunder, then they will go into that slow mode. Later, they will play real fast in my time-pressure, like crap but not enough time for me to dwell on their mistakes and either way the sudden jolt can cause me to lose on time, while I am trying to play more steadily and ignoring the clock until too late. After losing some of those games, I then go on to play faster than I can think, particularly in critical moments that even I sense, but now, now the opponent will surely slow down to find it, unlike me who is trying to appreciate a steady pace.

Finished another problem – Capa vs. Corszo, spent around 8 minutes on it and found the solution. But, it was rather obvious that if something was there it was going to be Capa’s. Could have made a developing move instead to “beef up the position first”, but since the flashing light “COMBO” was going off in the background, I knew to spend the time on that position. I never have this sort of luxury in an online game, which makes me think a lot less of them now, and I do lose online due to simple oversights.

Okay, I just played a couple blitz games to see if I was missing anything. Wow, people have their opening tricks worked out very well at blitz. I just won against a 1423 player who missed that he could fork my king and queen two moves in a row – I moved out of one fork into another. I can’t imagine anyone, even a 700 level kid OTB probably finds that. Great for stealing ideas or knowing how the other half lives, but a lot of things go missed. Realistically, I think blitz is more fun than Standard, though, plus you get to see more positions and endings.


9 thoughts on “Books II

  1. Hey Linuxguy!

    I think the Anthology of Chess Combinations is a great book! I have actually been using a smaller more up to date book that is similar entitled Chess Gems.

    I having been going through and trying to solve all the Morphy puzzles! I am going to do this periodically when I get bored with a normal tactics book. It is fun trying to dive into Morphy’s mind. After Morphy I will do Andersson.

    Chess Gems is fun because the author also gives a little history and shows some examples by the players before moving on to the puzzle part of the book.

    You know what if funny is that I generally don’t find blitz to be that fun. The fastest time control i find to be fun is G/15. Anything faster than that and I kind of hate it.

    I think chess is meant to be such an escape for me that I don’t want something hectic and crazy.

  2. TommyG, yes, exactly. Now I’m back to banning myself from playing internet chess.

    In G/15 there is always plenty of time in a blowout, but not enough time to even find the candidate moves in a tight game, and only too many players are willing to blitz at the end, even if their position is much better and they can afford to take their time. They fall back into the blitz strategy of countering your chances instead of making best moves. In a real, slow, OTB game those moves could easily turn a win into draw, but they are sacrificing their game or learning for a clock-win.

    Yeah, in blitz I see a lot of “anti” openings. IOW, avoid a scary line by using the boredom-defense. In Standard, I was willing to lose a ton of games and try following some sharp theory even deep into the game (once you’ve seen the same thing enough times, and I mean like 20+ times). Really strange, it seems like everyone is playing the Max-Lange Attack as White. For a while it was the Two Knights Def. with Ng5 attack, now that has virtually disappeared. Guioco Piano is also in Vogue (e4, c3, d4). A full Lopez is almost never seen, yet I played that for years as White, just as I have The Scotch more recently.

    Chess Gems sounds a lot like the Anthology book, in the same sort of vein of classic combinations (Lasker, Fischer, Capablanca, etc). It’s more fun and gratifying to study these combos and get better at (slow) chess than it is to get blitzed in some circumstances by a player that you know is weaker, and who you’ve beaten consistently in the past, but now they know they can blitz for a win (losing by a couple seconds is all it takes, which is why they won’t even play with any kind of increment) – takes all the fun and purpose out the game. Then you play someone who is all increment and it is equally hopeless, moving way too fast, then they achieve the win with no time remaining, yet plenty of time by increment.

    I should add that the theme of the trapped, or undefendable piece, is also important. A lot of times when analyzing a game, I notice Crafty finds a line that prevents the other player from developing, say, their Ra8, Nb8,Bc8 sort of thing.

    I am reading Karpov’s book of games he played 1979 through the 80’s. Uh, yeah, I wouldn’t buy this book nowdays. Great book, but not where someone below Master should really be focusing their time, I should think. Karpov uses monster tactics to nudge some small endgame advantage to a win, or even beats Tal in a 32 move kinghunt for example. The thing is that he likes building upon small advantages and will use the craziest looking formations that he creates in the middlegame – forget opening, he can simply create this stuff in just about any position – all tactically held together. And yes, he is simply beating everyone up in this book so far tactically, even in positions that don’t appear winning to the naked eye. It’s just that his “method of execution” is often endgame-looking. It’s not true for example, that he can’t see a winning 12 move deep queen sac or something like that.

    The book is actually mostly a light-read though, refreshing for anyone that has yet to incorporate this sort of ability into their style. But it is sort of memoir-istic more than trying to show analysis on every move, but he knows how to do it where it counts, or at least give the reader the general idea.

    For one of us to win through Karpov’s style is only realistic in some way at around 40/2 time controls. Heavy prophylaxis, small advantage that would be lost through one tiny mistake.

    I just played over a game Karpov-Spassky. At 35 moves, I believe it’s the longest in the book. It is Karpov’s 2 rooks and pawn vs. Spassky’s bishop, rook and pawn, when Karpov is finally going to win a rook or really just checkmate. What does this tell us? Karpov will make long-winded positional combinations, and is not afraid to set it up with lots of trades beforehand. He sees positional sacs that I simply don’t think many below GM level would even contemplate. IMHO, he is simply seeing “deeper” than anyone else, and can spot the tactics along the way.

    Even in that game, Spassky offers a nice piece-sac for a winning attack. Karpov points out that it is poisoned and goes on his merry way as if his game exuded “Sorry, dude, that was a different era!” He doesn’t brag about it or anything. Karpov frequently ignores stuff of his and others that is poisoned, and hold his position together by defensive tactics a lot.

  3. The whole internet fast game thing is why I like having and playing against engines! If I am going to be staring at a 2D screen I figure I should also try to get longer games. With the engines I can play at any length I want.

    I like Karpov’s games even though I don’t understand them that much. I have his larger games collection and he gives some nice notes in them. I also have his “Winning with the Spanish” which has some nice analysis of complete games.

    I came across the theme of a sort of trapped piece today. I was trying to analyze a position from a Polgar-Shirov game and I only briefly looked at Black’s trapped queen and yet that was the weakness that Polgar used to win the game! (I will try to post that later this weekend…although I was so off of the right plan that I got disgusted and gave very little notes but the position is cool…)

    Oh and I am still enjoying the Fischer-Spassky book by Gligoric. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. TommyG, “Chess at the Top” is a fun, well-done book. He really lets you know what was going on as a prelude to the game and such, short but sweet anecdotes such as mentioning where Kortchnoi made a quick move in a complicated position, or how he thought Kortchnoi avoided complications during the match – he makes you feel like you were there. Incidentally, this book contains all 18 games of the Kortchnoi-Karpov World Championship match in 1981.

    Internet-chess is for bravado. If you can play an engine without getting bored, then so much the better!

    A long time ago, I enjoyed this chess software program where a king sits in front of, animated with sound/music, then afterwards this female voiced went over the whole game for you, moving highlighted animated pieces saying things like “Aha! you made the right move!”, and “Your move was good…but…I think there may have been something better.” It was so friggin cool, but it was back in the days of like Windows ’95 and stuff, don’t know if it would still run on today’s OS and I probably chucked it because of that – I even bought a copy for a friend as later it was on sale for around $10. It’s funny when things are great, and then they never happen again, you just assume they will always get better. I think chess is full of such examples of where the “Golden Age” of chess has passed – kind of like old rock music has, almost.

    It’s funny you should mention an example like that. Karpov’s games, his analysis sometimes has amusing comments which point out something like that. An example is where Karpov points out that he can allow his opponent to make a couple of piece trades as his opponent’s problem of not being able to develop a piece or cover certain squares. Sort of like “Great job buddy, you ruined the pawns in front of my king and traded some pieces, but your original problem didn’t go away, and that is more important” – that’s my biting sarcasm, not his. And then his opponent forces a third piece trade, and Karpov just sort of observes the flailing away of his opponent, meanwhile continuing to increase his advantage, sure-footedly.

    Tommy, this game is in the anthology:

    I love this example. There are other ways Lasker could go about winning the game, but he out and out threatens to win a piece against Capablanca, if Capa hadn’t given up the exchange instead. 35.e5!!
    37…Bc8, notice that if he instead prevents the exchange by moving his rook away from d7 that Nd6+ will win the bishop. I was amazed by that example, and even the anthology didn’t point out why Capa played 37…Bc8, but that is why, or if 37…Rd8, then the bishop is en-prise.

    “Noticing squares”, this is very big. Generally, people will notice they got mated, then exit the internet or whatever, go off sulking. Noticing squares is important to king’s defense, tactics, and how pieces are running out of squares to go to. It’s my contention that if someone simply sat in a room by themselves and looked at the chessboard and memorized all of the diagonals, all of the square colors, that they would blunder less and get much better. See? It’s not about “Oh, I need an opponent to try and beat my head into a wall in order to get better.” To get better, it helps to be more observant, not necessarily trick one’s opponent and all that other stuff that goes in fast-chess. One can do all that other happy horse-puckey ad-infinitum and still never improve a rating. Sure, one will get better at slaughtering weaker opponents, but that is about all that is semi-guaranteed by playing lots of chess.

    Here is a vision-drill I just thought up, for example, that none of us probably do but would happily pay some lip-service to, if asked about it.

    Put a knight on e4, even better if you can do this as you are reading this. What color is that square? Which are the 8 squares that that knight can hop to? How does the knight get from e4 to e5, how many hops? What color square is e5, and which are the 8 squares that the knight can reach from e5. Try to do this blindfold in some way before looking at the board as you go. My contention is that if a person who didn’t know chess, but was in a prison cell for instance, and they just learned to play chess blindfold like this without a board. They could probably “get good” very quickly at chess once they started playing in rated tournaments.

    I am lazy and all the time I have thoughts while playing like moving the knight one square too far because I haven’t conceptualized the square colors of it’s mobility, or I miss one of the attacked squares. IMHO, it’s best to conceptualize all of this before a game so that during a game you _can_ make assumptions about where pieces are going and not screw it up because whoops, you needed to use a whole bunch of time to focus on the board before knowing where everything could go to. Or I will look at a square thinking my bishop can take, but whoops, that is one diagonal over – sshhh, I’ll have to keep my moronicism to my self!

    In fact, the end of that Lasker-Capablanca game is a perfect example to practice against. How should the game end? Answer: Ne6+ followed by RxBc8 mate. Now, what color square is e6 and which square did the knight jump from to get there? (try to answer blindfolded before peeking at the board). What color square, and which square is the knight hitting from e6? Answer: d8 with check, a dark-square. What color was the Bc8 on? Answer: a light square. Once you do this, you will begin to be able to visualize the board blindfold.

    When you go back to the position, notice how routine it seems. Like, if you could make both moves in 1 second, you would. Before? Heck, it took me a minute to find the winning continuation. Now? You gotta be kidding me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Part 2 to that exercise. Imagine that Nc5, surrounded the light squared pawns b6 and c5. Now note each square the knight passes over on it’s way to d6; e.g, Nc5 dark, d5 light, e5, dark, e6 light. Now from e6 to d8. e7 dark, e8 light, d8 dark. Now do it for the other knight. Ne4 light, to e5 dark, to e6 light, to d6 dark. Now do it for the Nd6 from d6 to both c8 and b7 destinations. You probably already “know” these squares already, such as “Oh, that’s the Nd7 square or the Be7 square.” It gets easier to simply visualize the path after a couple of times than go through the litany of the story of each square.

    Look at the board again going back a few moves and the combination begins to pop out. Lasker probably started out by eyeing the Nc5 fork, then added the Ne4-d6+ fork on top of that one. The interesting thing there is that the move e5 vacated both the squares c5 and e4 which were previously inaccessible. One move did all that. What if Black doesn’t play 35..dxe5? Well, then White could play 36.e5xf6, swing a rook over to e1 and you can see some nasty discovered check possibilities as the king is sort of stuck there. I don’t know if that is the answer but that is one possibility. Surely 35..Nd5 does nothing as Nc3xNd5 just doubles Black’s pawns. The Rd7 can only go to f7, which doesn’t rule out a Ng5+ discovery picking up the Rf7 exchange. Trading rooks on e7 would only allow the Ra7+ skewer picking up the free Bb7. If 35..Bc8, then 36.e5xd6 will be conclusive as the king is getting scrunched with a discovered Re1+ and then Ra7+ threats, and if Rxd6, then Ne4 attacking Rd6 and the Nf6+ fork of the other rook.

    One commentator mentioned the possibility of 35…c5 (or also ..d5), problem with those moves would seem to be that Nc5 next move or after bxc5…dxc5, Nxc5 – rook moves, then NxBb7 followed by e6. Now Ne4 threatening Nf6+ fork is winning to the naked-eye with that advanced protected e6 pawn and the vulnerable f6 square to Nf6 – if …Rf8, then Rh8 should seal it, can exchange rooks on f8.

    Here is a game from Karpov’s “Chess at the Top”:
    Not so much fun without the notes. Hort walks into a mate at the end, but if he hadn’t then White can trade bishops and eat pawns with the queen or trade queens for the won pawn ending – Kf3-e2 and one of White’s pawns is unstoppable.

    I am doing a visual review of the diagrams in the C3 Sicilian monograph by Lane. This helps me to notice variations and ideas for nuances in move orders. For me, the main thing is getting a playable +/= position, not expecting the opening to do any more than that nor even that I will play the middlegame or endgame well.

  5. I agree about banning online blitz and that mastering checkmate patterns is a very efficient way to achieve legit improvement. I met up with a guy from my chess club, a longtime 1400-ish player who is now around 1500, and who basically asked me to be his chess mentor. He was asking me how I improved so much, and how he could do so. Well, he now spends roughly an hour a day playing live blitz and dabbles around with endgames. I told him to do whatever is fun– chess is nothing if not fun. But for improvement’s sake: i told him to forget endgames altogether for now, and instead, to do 10-15 minutes (no more, no less) of either Chessimo (Personal Chess Trainer) or per day– this is the part that requires discipline b/c regularity and consistency is the key for this to work (i.e., no skipping days). He didn’t want to spend $$ so it was for him. He asked about books, so i suggested “How to Beat Your Dad” and “Art of Checkmate.” “But aren’t those books too easy for me??” So i set up a few positions with forced mate. The guy couldn’t find them, no wonder he was 1470 at the moment, when any A-player or Expert would easily spot it at a quick glance b/c these are stock patterns, smothered mate and Boden’s mate. Virtually nothing is “too easy”– that is your ego talking. Mastery of fundamental nuts and bolts or building blocks is vastly underrated, and mastery of “tricks” is way overrated. Like a guitarist wants to learn a tapping lick of Van Halen but doesn’t know a simple minor-7 chord and surely can’t even improvise over 8-bar blues in A minor. I think it was GM Yermolinsky who wrote something like: A self-styled “positional player” who doesn’t look for or find a forced mate is not a positional player, but a patzer! The third step is to annotate your own games, which should optimally done in 3 phases. First annotate your subjective thoughts and emotions. Do not filter out the absurd dumbass things you thought– that’s your ego again– these dumbass thoughts are actually the most important thing to note down. Second, review the game with an equal or stronger player (ideally ~250-300 points higher) and have them ask you questions and politely critique your answers. Third, if you wish, run things by Stockfish/Toga/Rybka (not Crafty! :)) , but ignore differences of less than +/-.50 or so. Finally, start your opening repertoire “project”. Nail down specific lines in this order, descending: 1.Black vs. 1.e4 2.White vs. Sicilian 3.White vs. 1…e5. Play simple shortcuts against everything else as others are both less popular and less threatening. You will not *likely* get miniatured on the White side of Pirc or Caro Kann, or the Black side of an English opening. So forget those for now. Anyway, i walked this guy through some openings and wrote down an outline of what he liked. Everything is sorted by popularity, in descending order, so the most important and commonest lines go on top. Then i suggested that he use YouTube and Google to find free articles and videos, and put the references in a notebook or a typed outline. References can also be to purchased books or videos. Anyway so 2 weeks later the guy upset a 1780 rated player, and he was telling me he sees the board much faster since he’s doing 10 mins of I also talked to him a lot about “fear” as i see it in the beliefs and attitudes of all those middling club players. Like being afraid of playing with an IQP, or of being a pawn down for decent compensation, or just general fear of higher-rated players or fear of losing. Fear of being caught out in your 1500-rated opponent’s “preparation”, irrational fear of mainlines, etc etc… Maybe i should have written this long comment on my own blog– hope u dont mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Katar, thank you for the post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    You can post it on your blog, but of course I find it even more convenient to read it from my own blog. hehe.

    This is so important what you say! Yes, just playing a lot is no guarantee of increased ratings strength.

    The simple, “dumb” tactics or thoughts during a game are most important, like you say. We filter them out of our notes conveniently perhaps, but they are the flaws to fix.

    This is an illustrative game where I had one of those “aha!” moments that I virtually never have playing at my level.;action=show

    In the opening, the guy lets me “box him up” as I decided to play my preparation just to check it once. Normally I like to play a variation where I am an idiot, so that I can learn something new.

    Anyway, I played Qg3 as a fingerfehler, meaning to play Qh3 even while realizing on some level that Qh3 was patzerish. But immediately I had one of those “OMG, I made a move above my level!” moments.

    Qg3 “threatens” Qh4 which is a double-attack on h7 and e7 (Ng5xBe6), both attacks win. So, I never even _moved_ my queen to h4 and already Black needs to stop at least one of those threats to prevent the double-attack. Let’s say …Rc7. Next, I could probably defend my d-pawn, maybe even do a rook lift and threaten Qh4 with Rh3, probably not but you never know. If I could do that and force his Rh8, then I could take the Be6 and then get my queen in to f6 with check.

    But what was I thinking? “Duh, I’ll threaten his h7 pawns.”, and what was he thinking, well it’s obvious from the continuation what he was thinking. hehe. We are 1700 level players who should be 1800 level players, but keep making patzer moves and mistakes. I see my mistakes much more quickly nowdays, but that only confirms my chess-laziness from playing too much.

    Another thing is that it is important to do visualization exercises, at least like once ever. It’s ridiculous that people can’t even tell me the color of a square. You’ve practically had sex with the board thousands of times and still can’t tell me the color of a square or visualize a continuation without a board. I know players who are like this and I am taken aback a bit.

    That visualization exercise I described earlier helped me a lot. I can visualize the Ne5-c4-d2-e4 and see the squares reached from there, or Ne5-d3-f4. Visualize this quickly is the goal. It’s easy to visualize when someone describes it like I just did, but when you have to visualize the board in your mind first, and then work out visually how you will get the knight to a square on your own, that is something different altogether. I can visualize the board blindfold, much better now. This has helped me in my games! Particularly at 15/0 or faster where you don’t have as much time to miss things, visually. Really, it helps on defense most, and on longer range plans, knowing what can get to where, which is important in time-pressure because an opponent can make dumb, yet still menacing attacks and it’s important to instantly see or feel the defense. Often we let our “feel” handle it and hardly bother to glance at stuff. If you can visualize blindfold, that “feel” will be enhanced.

    At first, I really had to strain to visualize that Lasker_Capablanca ending, but now I can visualize the position _far_ more easily; it’s like daydreaming, very easy, I am not straining with steam coming out of my ears. It’s easiest to visualize when laying in bed or even dreaming about a postion. Just before I wake up, I can visualize a combo easily. But now I can do it awake, because I realize it is like daydreaming, very easy. It’s easier to play a position blindfold because you don’t have to “look” at a board. Why does a person look at a board during a game? Obviously it’s because either A) They are so freaking nervous sitting across from a live opponent or B) They simply don’t know where either the pieces, squares, or colors are! Dwell on that for just a second, you or your opponent don’t know where sh8t is or will be after the next move, so you are endlessly scanning squares which should already be infinitely familiar to you.

    How can a person forget about a piece or a pin along a diagonal? I would postulate that it’s because they don’t have a strong enough grasp on where things are on the board or will be during the next move. I know a guy who has beaten an Expert and drawn 1700 and 1800 level, but he falls for pins like …Bc5 pinning queen and king against like 1100 players quite frequently. He missed back to back pins in one game against an 1100 girl, and later lost to an 1100 guy with the …Bc5 move. When you miss stuff that many times, it’s no longer an accident, it’s something in one’s game to fix. And yet this guy is a wizard at spotting checkmates all during a game.

    I actually lost to that guy in my worst blunder ever. I was winning, could have taken his knight and then we each take each others’ queen, anyways been up a knight, but I see that my queen is attacked, forget what I was going to do, and simply move my queen, but then he saw the forced mate in 3. So, he doesn’t see that he is instantly losing a piece, but is onto the mate in 3 the whole way. This is an example of a chess “hole” in someone’s game.

  7. I just won a G/15 with 0.8 seconds left on my clock. He could have repeated for the third time, but tried to beat me on the clock from a losing position. It’s funny how many mates for both sides were missed.

    A GM would have spotted the mates. We like to think “Oh, GM’s have more positional understanding.” and they do because they would spot the mates, that is positional understanding! Stopping the mate the theme would have been “Make your queen the opponent of the other queen.” and the mate theme for both sides became “There is no piece opponent on the dark squares.”

  8. I’m looking to play some longer games.

    Perhaps we may meet on the internet. I play on as Takchess which is a pay to play site. An alternative which I believe is free is

    I’m somewhat lame at this point and looking to improve.

    I look forward to reading some of your past posts.


  9. If you’re looking for longer time controls online, a great place to start is the Team 4545 League. There’s one 45 min (plus 45 sec increment) game per week, with six sections between U1200 and U2200.

    Games are played on the ICC (, which does have a membership fee, but I find the money well spent.

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