Sunday, June 21, 2009

You gotta crawl before you can walk?

This is a catchphrase that is apparently looking less and less true through the research of anthropologists.Especially after reading over in Scientific American's latest issue featuring the work of Anthropologist David tracer of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Many indigenous people never teach their children to crawl and for apparent good reason. Outside of the modern Western world sanitation is always a great concern and putting a child face-first onto the ground is a good way to catch diahrea from dirt on the hands as well as getting things in the child's mouth which don't brlong there.

In fact not crawling seems to have no negative effect. Peoples from New Guinea, Indonesia, Mali and Paraguay don't allow crawling. Yet our children's psychologists have built up a mountain of so-called science based on crawling, even though this research as well as a myriad of others working in the field seems to show that this is another close-minded view of human development.

I recommend picking uo this issue of Scientific American. There were many good articles.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Evaluation of Material Imbalances: Part One

I've been really interested lately with the relative value of pieces and pawns given the position and how to know when their values fluctuate. With this in mind I was quite interested to read about IM Larry Kaufman's research here

Briefly to give you an idea what interested me was the sheer magnitude of the research as well as using the computer to provide relative precision in the evaluation of chess positions.

The research shows that the rook pawn for example (that red-header step-child of foot soldiers) is worth roughly 15% less then his fellows. Making it typically advantageous to "promote him" to a knight-pawn whenever the chance to capture may occur. Other than this minor difference the pawns tend to hold the same value from their starting squares.

The value of the Bishop pair is refined to be in almost all cases worth an extra half pawn. The reasoning isn't completely certain but it seems that the bishop pair is superior to the knight-pair as well as a bishop and knight possibly for their lack of redundancy. Often times the inferior pairings will control the same squares limiting their overall effect on the board in most cases. the bishop pair never cross each other's path therefore maximizing their board presence.

Furthermore his research suggests that if you have the bishop pair and your opponent's one bishop is a "bad bishop" you have a FULL pawn compensation. To me this is quite important information and very revealing!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book review: Standard Chess Openings

I got this and several other books for free several years ago and was interested in checking out what looked to be the biggest chess book in existence. All of the Standard Chess openings! Wow this would be lots of fun to read was my initial idea. How would this stand up in comparison to NCO and other big opening omnibus?

Well I'm sorry to say it but this book is a big let down. First this guy (Eric Shiller)is a PHD yet his published book has so many spelling errors I was shocked. I mean even chess blogs written hastily have less mistakes. For example: on page 240 we get this classic sentence, "The Sozin Variation appears in several Sicilian Defenses, including the Najdort, Sahevening and Classical Variations."

Has anyone heard of the Najdort? or Sahevening? Did you mean Najdorf and Scheveningen?

In his intro game to the Semi-Slav the analysis is very poor. 23...d4! The move is actually a mistake and leads to a quick loss for black.

Many of the openings have only one game to show them off, this would be fine but sometimes the one game he uses is a pointless early deviation which shows little about the opening.

Shiller defines a Standard Opening as "...any opening which an active chessplayer might reasonably expect to encounter frequently(Shiller 14)".

Ok so then he includes the "Elephant Gambit" 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5. Has anyone ever encountered this line in a rated game? this line is weak and the game to highlight it happens to be a telegraph match from 1954 where black gets crushed.

Questionable is the inclusion of the so-called "King Walk Variation" [A59] if you are interested which in Mega Database 2009 out of over 4 MILLION games had a whole 500 or so games with this line. Not exactly standard.

The Janowski Indian which you may never face in your lifetime 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Bf5 which again has hardly any games in the Mega database.

These are but a small sample of many mistakes in this book. I do have to give the author credit for attempting to annotate this many games from all kinds of openings. It must have taken lots of time and effort.

overall I rate this as a 1/5 as far as chess books are concerned.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review: Dangerous weapons The Nimzo-Indian

The Nimzo-Indian is my favorite defense to 1.d4 and I am slowly building up a reliable repertoire with this system. I like Black's chances in the middlegame and feel like it is a strong fighting defense. I have had quite a bit of fun reading through the "Dangerous weapons" series and have actually used several of their lines in rated games. Some of them have actually been assimilated into my personal favorites.

Now since I've yet to take up 1.d4 in my own games there are only 8 out of 17 sections that actually apply to my current situation. But, truth be told, I found most of these lines to be worth trying or at least considering.

Chapter 13 entitled "going Dutch" is written by John Emms and appeals to me for several reasons. The first being the after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 black has pretty comfortable opening chances. 4.Nf3 is not a very aggressive move and black can use that idea to get a bit frisky. The idea is after 4...Ne4!? This line was actually played by Karpov against Kasparov in a championship match. Since the knight has been placed on f3 white no longer has the normal development Nge2 or the pawn push f3, these points help black to create his own threats right out the gate.

I like this line because it gives black a straight-forward plan...go after the doubled c-pawns and try to mix things up positionally with an early f5.

Its no suprise why I like chapters 5 and 6, they are both written by Richard Palliser whom i've come to enjoy as a chess writer for his easy to understand and logical advise in the openings.

Chapter 5 is entitled "The Romanishin Gambit" after 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 c5!? 7.dxc5 d4 black should obtain a big center and a lead in development. This gambit is slightly worse for black but seems to give realistic pressure on White's position for a nice lasting initiative. I would use this line without hesitation if confronted in a big tournament with the option. I feel in practice this line is hard to deal with and could easily result in a big advantage for black.

Overall this book gives some fun lines for black and after reading through the ideas for white it seems to give him some new ideas to work with as well. I would say this book is for players over 1700 in general. Or people that plan to face strong opponents, since you are very unlikely to get an opportunity to play one of these lines.

If you play 1.d4 or if you use the Nimzo-Indian I would recommend this book as a change of pace or a fun gambit guide. Rating 4/5.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: Play The Ruy Lopez

Hello everyone!

I have been reading and evaluating this book for quite a while now and have come to the conclusion that this is the most complete and satisfying opening repertoire guide I have come across.

Andrew Greet has made in this book one of the most comprehensive and accessible manual to play the Ruy Lopez.

One of the most interesting features of the book is that he has used a subvariation as his "mainline". the move 5.Qe2 also known as the Worral System is his remedy to the maddening theory of the Spanish game.

At first I was skeptical since it ins't all that common. But after a look through Mega Database 2009 it has become quite popular in the last few years with GMs. the foreword is written by GM Nigel Short, in which he gives edification to Greet as well as the Worral. Showing how he used the system and similar lines to beat Karpov in a bigtime match. Not going to the extreme to say that it was the lines which were strong, but that they were solid and that the impression they made lead to mistakes by Karpov.

The most amazing thing about this book is the devotion to early alternatives. Anyone whom has ever purchased an openings book has come across the often spotty coverage of alternative lines. Greet gives us 120 pages of "third move alternatives for black"!! Then another 65 pages for fourth move alternatives!!With a solid 120 pages dedicated to the so-called mainlines.

This is an excellent resource for those wanting to play the Ruy Lopez and looking for preparation and improvement in many different lines of this opening.

What I was especially impressed with was his seemingly unbiased point of view even though this is obviously from White's point of view. Giving much respect to sublines like the Cozio and the Bird.

An interesting example of Greet's creative ideas and breakage with typical Lopez recommendations is his recommendations against the "Classical Variation" 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 the recommendation of 4.Nxe5!? is interesting and not at all bad, although not very well tested. After the best reply 4...Nxe5 5.d4 leads to complications which will be interesting for White, especially if he has preparation on the unfavorable replies.

Overall I think this book is well-written and the ideas are easy to understand. there is a mountain of information and variations but I didn't feel overwhelmed and, in fact quite enjoyed going through the lines. In conclusion I feel like this book can prepare anyone to play the Ruy Lopez and give in a 5/5 rating for a fantastic chess book!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Reno Class Championships Round 3

Round Three had me paired as White vs Bob Bennett. A friendly guy and interesting player whom I've played several times in the past. Our last encounter had me on the winning side of a French Tarrasch and I was interested in playing the same line to get some more work in against the isolated d-pawn.

Leading up to this tournament my goal was to use more of my clock and to spend more time looking for good moves. Unfortunately I again raced through the game and missed many oppourtunities. I'm a knucklehead sometimes! My opponent made a few dubious moves in the opening and I had a comfortable winning advantage by move fourteen. Then I proceeded to try and get tactical...while spending zero time working out the calculations. Its funny how easy it seems after the fact but I just need to take my time.

Needless to say my threat backfired and I was getting crushed. Fortunately my opponent returned the favor and let me fork some big pieces and get a wicked attack on his bare king.

Chris Harrington 1596 vs. Bob Bennett 1500

Monday, June 1, 2009

Round Two Reno Class Championships

This was round two of the Reno Class Championships and I really wanted a win with Black since I had already had a painful draw in round one. I knew my opponent preferred a slow buildup with White and tended to trade towards a draw offer. I ended up playing a Queen's Indian Defense, an opening I'm still not that comfortable with but in this game I never felt like I was under any pressure from White as he played for a passive yet equal position.

I was really hyped for the rare four knights ending we ran into. It was later pointed out from another player (Drunknknight) that I shouldn't have won as easily as I did. It's true.

I was happy with the result and its also nice to play a game without any serious blunders. I have white next week against Bob Bennett and I will again be playing all out for the full point.