Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Mark Dvoretsky's School of Chess Excellence 3: Strategy. Ch 1 Learnings

Okay, so I have not read Book 1 and Book 2 unfortunately as I grabbed this book from a shelf in a shop in Moscow, and they did not have anything other than Book 3. I guess they are popular! I will at some point buy the other books: Endgame Analysis, Tactical Play and Opening Developments. Meanwhile I am focusing on the one that interests me the most, Strategy. I will write a series of blog posts, summarizing my learnings to hopefully reinforce what I've learned and maybe help some fellow chess players out there. So here goes.

Chapter 1: Логика позиционной борьбы (Logic behind positional battles)
I've been playing the Queen's pawn game (1. d4) ever since I started taking chess seriously, and thus, I often find myself in very slow positional battles. This chapter has definitely helped me understand a bit more, mainly by reminding me of important concepts that have not yet taken permanent residence inside of my brain. Here they are:

  • Always start your turn by asking yourself what your opponent is up to, what chance's does he have?
    Recently I lost a game in 23 moves, where by move 22 I had an advantage of more than 2 points. I knew I was winning, I was quite proud that in 22 moves I made only 4 inaccuracies, no mistakes, no blunders. My opponent was suffering. On move 23 I got so excited of my growing advantage that I forgot to ask myself this question. End result? Blunder, and game lost in the blink of an eye. Now, I have already blogged about this before here: Overconfidence Kills: In Business and In Chess , and yet I keep committing this mistake. I need to reinforce this principle so that I never forget to ask it, no matter what, hopefully one day I will write a blog that proves I've managed to stick by this principle.
    White to move. White has a 2 point advantage based on this position. My blunder? Scroll to the end of the blog to see my blunder, otherwise have a guess in the comments section.
  • If you have found what your opponent's plan is, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to make a move to prevent it. That is, if their plan is not dangerous, then you should not make a concession by preventing it. Let them go ahead and do it.
    At the moment I do not have an example of me messing this principle up. I think most of the time I do not waste my time with moves like h3 and a3 if they are not necessary. Keeping to the principle of not moving your pawn's on the side you are weaker, I usually manage not to move the pawn's unless absolutely necessary.
  • Keep your opponent's weak pieces and your strong pieces on the board.
    I'm guilty of falling victim to unnecessary, inaccurate moves and trades from time to time. For example, in the same game outlined above, I had a decent black bishop, while black's black bishop was blocked off by his own pawn. I should have fixed his weakness and played on the opposite flank. However, I remembered a general rule, that you should trade off your opponent's fianchettoed bishop, and I proceeded to trade his bad fianchettoed bishop for my good bishop. Stupid of me to fall for the general rule, when the position actually called for me to keep my bishop and try to lock his bishop into his cramped, bad position. See position below: 

    What should my plan be here? Well, I incorrectly decided that I need to eliminate his fianchettoed bishop, and I went for it with Qd2, followed by Bh6. The proper course of action would have been to continue my attack on the Queen's flank with a move such as Qb3.
  • Attack your opponent's weaknesses. This is a bit obvious no? Well, in a way yes, but Dvoretsky exemplifies how to execute this to perfection. You should not rush, rather, you should find the most accurate order of moves to achieve your objectives. Whether this objective is to set up an outpost for your knight or attacking that backward pawn your opponent left. I got a feeling from this chapter that there is a certain magic, to train your brain to see a sequence of moves (like in tactics), whose end result is a "just" a weak square in the opponent's camp. Usually I've only done a sequence of moves in my brain to exploit tactics. I will now start imagining sequences of moves that will create the outposts and weak squares I want. After all, it's these kind of weaknesses that in the end define a game.

The next chapter is entitled "Which pawn to move?", which excites me very much as I think the weakest part of my game currently is pawn moves. I am definitely getting better at them, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Until the next time!! :)

My blunder: Bxh5. Completely forgot I have left the square b3 undefended. Massive, massive blunder.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

No blog entry in 2 months. Ouch. What's the plan?

So my last blog post earned 25 Quora upvotes, a record for the blog. Considering the blog had only about 25 followers yesterday, that's a decent result! It has scared me for the last 2 months, to write something good enough to publish after that record breaking post.

Okay, truth is, I wasn't that scared, so what really happened? The last two months have been devoted fully to family. One month vacation, just chilling with my loved ones during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and then one month of handling family business in chilly Russia. During this time I hardly made any progress at chess. I haven't done a single chess puzzle or watched a single chess video. I haven't studied at all. Shame on me. I can only imagine how the 2 months would turn into a year if I had kids. Luckily, I don't.

The good news is, the Russia stuff that has been haunting me for the whole of last year, is now finally, completely, OVER! So even though I made no progress at chess, I have now a clear take off strip for me to make huge leaps of progress. Thus, starting tomorrow, I will start the take off.

What's the plan?
I will resume doing chess puzzles for at least 90 minutes daily and I plan to complete the Dvoretsky book by the end of March. I shall try to devote at least 3 full hours a day to chess. Aside from that, my days shall be filled with the planning and execution of my next business venture. It has to do with tourism in Ecuador, but for now I cannot reveal more details. I will also be quite busy working out, gaining physical fitness for a few 5,000m+ peak ascents, that I have planned for the end of March. More on that, in a few weeks. Wish me luck!