Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It is indeed hard for a non-chess player to write about chess if he does not speak the lingo of chess-players. Little wonder then that all of us chess-players will tend to misconstrue his intentions.

Analysing why an outcome has occurred after the event, piecing the pieces of evidence that led to the outcome is called post-mortem analysis, not technical evaluation. All good chess players do that at the end of each game for it is rare that both players would arrive at the same conclusions at every juncture after each move, maybe except for the 1st few moves of the opening where it is accepted conventional wisdom. Aided by a reasonable thought process, it is mainly the evaluation of the position after analysis to determine if the move or idea is playable. Through analysis, one learns a great deal about his/her strengths and weaknesses, particularly in the area of chess study and character shortcomings which need to be addressed.

Any amount of analysis will reveal, for the loser, errors in the following:

a. Strategic errors  - Misjudging a position due to the over-estimation  of one's positional factors over that of the opponent. Or it could be trading down to a lost endgame without knowing. Or choosing to delay the decisive blow hoping for more gains, which turn out to be illusory.

b. Tactical errors - Simply missing a tactic that loses material, or failing to calculate the position to quiescence (ie no more checks, captures or threats present in the position)

c. Off the board errors - Nerves, panic in the face of time-trouble thereby leading to b. Other character flaws such as lack of guts or over-estimating the opponent's strength may also attribute.

If one reads Mark Dvoretsky's writings at the Chess Instructor 2009, you will then realise that  purposeful chess training can fix most of the errors outlined above. If someone is weak at calculating, keep putting  complex positions and analyse all variations each move. Over time, you have to get better as your mind subliminally learns from the various patterns and possibilities presented. For time trouble weaknesses, learn to find ways to delay the battle by perhaps exchanging to a slightly inferior endgame and take your chances. Many who have endgame phobia will shun this and rather play to lose in the middlegame, well, that's a choice.

My learned friend across the Causeway asked a very interesting question: " How does one think at the critical point of decision-making"? What is the critical point? How does one know if the position in front of him/her is critical?

Critical point in a position is dependent on a few factors : Amount of time left on the clock, status of the position (winning or losing), what phase of the game its in (opening, middlegame or endgame), the strengths and weaknesses of the player. All these factors will decide the course of action. As to how, I believe a study of Dvoretsky's books will yield some answers, esp Training for the Tournament Player and Technique for the Tournament Player are 2 that come to mind.Or if you prefer, solve the puzzles given by him at the Chess Cafe under the Instructor. 

How about looking up Colin Crouch's Why We Lose At Chess? Or Jonathan Rowson's Seven Deadly Chess Sins?

There's a good review of the book at http://www.chessville.com/reviews/TheSevenDeadlyChessSins.htm

Both books will serve to uncover the weakness of the mind in a chess-player. Believe me, they will serve you better rather than Dr deBono. After all, who understands chess better than the players themselves?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I've just come across an interesting remark made by a supposedly non-competitive chess player in that you will need "need the tools of developed judgement, understanding and advanced thinking skills" to come up with possibilities to save yourself when you are in trouble in a game. 

This is under the scope of Technical Evaluation. Highly interesting because I am still trying to fathom the author's intent in the previous statement, as he has often renounced the importance of having the technical knowledge but rather the need of maintaining the right emotional balance to solve problems on the chessboard. What I find issue here is that much of the emotional stress that is generated is often in the player not having found the solution to his problem at hand in the first place. This can be address through good preparation in the realm of analysis of the players own games by discovering his faults and actively correcting them.

After following the TV series "House", I've come to realise that the gruff and eccentric Doctor is purely a man with a good logical deductic set of thinking skills to arrive at his diagnosis. In the panel of doctors with him, most of them will have the knowledge he has but what distinguishes is his cool, calculating ability to remove the possibilities one by one till he zeroes in on the cause of  the problem. He will investigate even domestic living patterns of the patient to sieve out behaviours which may cause an ailment. So the detective in the Doctor often solves the mystery rather than just having tons of medical knowledge. But then, its still the knowledge required to eliminate the right possibilites.

Developed judgement comes in chess through the huge amount of analysis of games where the object is to find the correct solution to any problem in the position at hand. What matters is the thinking process of selecting the right set of moves played and responses by the opponent to arrive at a plausible outcome. The thing that separates the amateur from the master in this regard is the EVALUATION of the final position when all tactical possibilities are exhausted. The master is able to use his vast databank of outcomes he has experienced from analysing similar positions to know what would be the outcome of his position after analysis is done. As to the ADVANCED THINKING SKILLS, it is nothing more than the derivation of moves based on a move-selection algorithm which all top-players will have developed. Perhaps the reader can refer to Charles Hertan's move selection process outlined in the chapter " The Hertan Hierarchy" in the book The Chess Instructor 2009, a book I have persuaded my learned friend across the Causeway to read but to no success. Perhaps I have better luck with you, dear enlightened readers, to try.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Chess maxims are abound, especially from acclaimed players like Siegbert Tarrasch who was the authority in explaining the importance of chess rules in his time. Today we have a summarised guide of these bits of advice in the form of the 2 books below:

 This is the principles book for the intermediate player rated perhaps 1500 and above. The 17 chapters offer a wide range of advice from Attack, Move Selection, Calculation, Defence, Tactics and even Tournament tactics. I like #137:

 "The most important novelties are hidden in the games of the old masters"

That's why the study of the games of Alekhine, Nimzowitsch and Capablanca will gain you valuable insights on some of the plans they've used and are likely to spin off in positions of current theory.                                                                                                      
Kurzdorfer's book is more palatable for the beginner to 1400 player, as he makes his presentation a little easier to understand coupled with practical examples of his own games rather than adapt them from the old masters.

I highly recommend this be holiday reading for those having some time on their hands before they take part in another chess tournament. General maxims like ' the threat is stronger than its execution' or ' do not create more weaknesses when you are in a  bad position"