CategoriesWorld Chess

This Week: The World Open!!!

This week, in Philadelphia, PA, USA is the 40th Annual World Open.  Perhaps one of the largest chess tournaments on the planet, this week there will be THOUSANDS of chess players from all over the globe competing for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars! That’s a lot of chess sets, and some very large prizes.

I’ll be one of the chess players at the tournament hoping to win my section and take home a large bounty at the end of the long, grueling week of chess games!  I’ll be posting blogs all week long on the on-goings of the tournament, how players are doing, and hopefully getting some tips and advice from some of the greatest chess players alive today!

Here’s a rundown of the tournament:

There are 9 sections in the main event: Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, U1800, U1600, U1400, U1200, U900.  This is great, because it means everyone in the tournament will be paired against players around their own strength (I’ve done very poorly in the past in “open” tournaments where I was stuck constantly playing opponents with ratings that were several hundred points higher than me round after round… the fact that I’m playing people only withing 200 points or less of my own rating makes me much more confident, and means the games will be much more fierce).

There are several side events including several Blitz tournaments (games of 5 minute time control), the Senior Amateur championships (open to players with ratings under 2010 and aged at least 50 years old), The Women’s Championship (open to all female players of the world), the Under 13 championships (open to all players aged 13 yrs old or less), and the Under 13 Booster (Open to players aged 13 yrs or less and having a rating of U1000).

Between all the sections and bonus tournaments, there will be over $250,000 in prizes!  Top prize for the open section alone is $20,000!!!!!  For many of us, that’s a year’s worth of pay for winning 9 games of chess!

Time control for the open section is 40/90, SD/30 w/30sec inc. (which, you’ll discover in a future blog means 40 moves in 90 minutes, then sudden death of 30 minutes using 30 second increments). Time control for all the other sections (for the longer schedules) are 40/2, SD/1 w d/5  except for the U900 section and the Under 13 booster which is G/65 w d/5.  These time controls are based on the longest possible schedules (which in most cases is 5 days).  The time controls get shorter for players that opt for shorter schedules (either 4 days of chess or 3 days of chess).

Personally, I’m playing a full 5-day schedule so I can have as much time to analyze as possible.  With several months worth of income on the line for the top prize in my section, I can’t afford to make any mistakes by moving too fast!

There will also be trophies, which is always good to prove you won your section to your friends even after you’ve spent your winnings!

Stay tuned all this week as I bring you as up-to-date with the events of the World Open as I can.

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesNew Products

New Dal Negro Backgammon Sets In Stock Shortly

The Regency Chess Company is famous for selling chess sets. But it’s always worth remembering that we are the UK’s biggest stockist of backgammon sets. We stock the famous names in Backgammon including the legendary Dal Negro sets. Dal Negro need little introduction as one of the worlds most famous producers of high quality wooden games. Their company started in the 1700s, so to say they have heritage would be an understatement.

During the last 12 months they have completely changed their range of backgammon sets, during the transition they stopped making wooden sets which meant we were unable to supply them for a few months. They have just released three new models however, and as the UK’s best stockist of Dal Negro sets we are about to add them to the website.

Whats surprising is that Dal Negro have managed to increase their level of quality and finish on these new sets compared to their old ones. The standard of finishing on the wood is amazing, the construction solid and the weight and feel is what you would expect from such a top end luxury product. The only thing that we feel lets these sets down is the dice. They are good quality, but not amazing quality like the rest of the set. Keen players may wish to upgrade their dice. We will of course be feeding this back to the company.

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #8 – Descriptive Notation

If you play chess online against an opponent or against a chess program on your computer, you’ll notice that the software keeps track of all the moves made in the game with  combination of letters and numbers.  When you play chess in a tournament, you are expected to keep track of your moves and the moves of your opponent in much the same way.  This detailed list of every move made in a chess game is called notation.

There are two main types of notation: descriptive notation, and algebraic notation.  Algebraic notation is the more modern and widely used form of notation, but we’ll go over each type of notation and you can decide which you’d rather use.  In this blog, we’ll only be talking about descriptive.  In the next blog, we’ll talk about algebraic notation and compare it to descriptive and compare the two.

P is for Pawn.  This is used in descriptive notation ONLY.  You’ll understand why once we talk about algebraic notation.

R is for Rook.

B is for Bishop.

N is for Knight.

K is for King.

Q is for Queen.

is the symbol for movement.  This is used in descriptive notation ONLY.

x is the symbol for capturing a piece.

+ is the symbol for Check.

++ is the symbol for Checkmate in descriptive notation.

= is the symbol for Pawn promotion.  After the = will be the symbol for whichever piece you’ve turned the Pawn into (usually Q for Queen)

0-0 is for Castling on the kingside. (The Rook moves 2 spaces)

0-0-0 is for Castling on the queenside. (The Rook moves 3 spaces)

1-0 is the symbol for black resigning (1 win for white, 0 for black)

0-1 is the symbol for white resigning (0 wins for white, 1 for black)

1/2-1/2 is the symbol for a draw (1/2 win for both sides) either by draw offer, stalemate, 50 move rule (the 50 move rule says that if the opponents have both made 50 moves and not a single piece has been captured, then the game is a draw), or 3-move repetition (if the two opponents make the exact same moves 3 times consecutively, the game is a draw).

Now that you know the symbols, let’s talk about how to write your moves using….

Descriptive Notation

Descriptive Notation is also known as English Notation.  It was the widely used form of notation by chess players and authors of chess books up until the 1970’s. It is still used by some chess players, though Algebraic has become the widely used form of notation (infact FIDE does not even allow Descriptive Notation at international events).

In descriptive notation, you are using the aforementioned symbols for all the pieces.  The location of each square is annotated by 1) if it’s Kingside or Queenside, 2) Which piece’s starting location corresponds to that file/column (for instance if it’s the file of the starting position of the Rook on the Kingside, every space in that file would be KR), 3) how many ranks from the player it is (this can be tricky… the 5th rank for white is only the 4th rank for black).

So, from our starting position (I’ve taken out the numbers and letters so you won’t be confused):

If white moves his King Pawn 1 space forward, and then black moves the Pawn in front of his queenside Bishop one space, like this:

It would be written as follows:

 P-K4          P-QB4

As you can see, the tricky part comes from a) recalling if the space is on the Kingside or Queenside, and b) counting the ranks from each opponent’s prospective, not just your own (because, as said, white’s 5th rank is black’s 4th rank).

When capturing a piece, you denote it as X.  On the plus side, you only piece is doing the capturing and what piece is being captured.  in most cases this is simple:

The white Pawn taking the black Pawn would be written simply as

PxP

The only time you have to go into more detail is if a piece (or multple pieces of the same type) can take multiple pieces of the same type.  For instance

Here you have 2 white Knights that could each take 2 Pawns.  Therefore you cannot simply write NxP because the question of “which Knight took which Pawn” comes up (although, in this case you’d want to move your Queen to saftey, but for the sake of this lesson, let’s just say you were going to take a pawn with a Knight and do a queen trade.  So our intended move for this is:

Which is written as

N(QB)xP(QN)

Which means: the kNight in the file where the Queenside Bishop started is capturing (x) the Pawn in the file where the Queenside kNight started.

Placing someone in Check will be denoted by the move of the piece putting someone in check followed by a + and a Checkmate will be the move followed by a ++.  For instance, in our first quiz question a couple weeks ago:

The queen was at KB3 before the positon and took the pawn at black’s KB pawn for a Checkmate which would be written like this:

QxP++

We don’t need to say which Pawn because it was the only Pawn the Queen could take from where she was.

In the next blog, we’ll talk about algebraic notion and compare it to descriptive using the same examples we used here.

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #7 – Special Pawn Moves

Like I said when I told you how the pieces move, the Pawn is a very tricky piece.  It might be worth the least (only 1 point), but it has the most special rules.  Remember, it moves forward but attacks diagonally.  And it moves only 1 space at a time UNLESS it’s the first time it moves, and then it can chose to move 1 space or 2.  Well, this tiny chess piece is about to get even more complex with it’s two special moves: En Passant, and promotion.

En Passant

En Passant (meaning “in passing”) is a very special move that can be done by Pawns, but only in certain places and situations.  As we discussed before, Pawns move forward (1-2 spaces on their first move and 1 space after that) and attack on the diagonal, as seen here

The special case of En Passant  occurs on the 5th rank for white Pawns, and the 4th rank for black Pawns.  Consider the following diagram:

White Pawns start on the 2nd rank moving toward the 8th rank, and black Pawns start on the 7th rank moving toward the 1st rank (in chess, “rows” are called “ranks” and “columns” are called “files”).  Therefore the pawns at a2 and f7 are in their starting position.  We know this means those 2 Pawns can move either 1 space or 2 spaces on their first move.  Let’s say it’s black’s turn.  He knows that if he moves his f-Pawn to f6, that white’s e-Pawn will take him.  So he decides to move 2 spaces to f5.

BECAUSE WHITE’S E-PAWN IS ON THE 5th RANK, he can take the f-Pawn as if it had moved only one space forward, but taking it “En Passant” or “In Passing”

This can ONLY be done on the 5th rank for white and the 4th rank for black as a special privilege for crossing into enemy territory.  ALSO, it can only be done to a Pawn moving 2 spaces on it’s first move.  If the f-pawn had already moved before the e-Pawn got there, En Passant would be illegal.   So if the position were already like this:

when the e-Pawn got to e5, he cannot take the f-pawn.  Also, if black’s pawn started on f6 and then moved to f5 so you can’t take it, en passant is not allowed.  ONLY on the pawns 1st move is en passant an allowable circumstance.

Pawn Promotion

One final special move for Pawns (see, I told you they were complex little pieces) is promotion.  Because Pawns are so weak (only worth 1 point) and because they have limited movement (only 1 space at a time in a forward direction), it is a great feat for a Pawn to get all the way to the other side of the board (8th rank for white and 1st rank for black).  Because of this, is a brave little Pawn manages to get that far, they are rewarded with a promotion.

A player that manages to get it’s Pawn all the way to the other side of the board may transform that Pawn into any piece they want (most players chose a Queen).

So now you know all the moves of the chess pieces (from this blog and from “All About Pieces” parts 1 and 2) as well as how to win (from “Check, Checkmate, Stalemate”).  Go out and play chess with the confidence that you know the rules of the game!  You may not start winning matches right away, but at least you know what you’re doing.  And you’ll learn even more by bookmarking this blog so you can stay up to date with all future blogs!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #6 – Castling

Before we get started talking about a few special moves you can do in chess, let’s give you the answers to the quiz from the last blog on if each position was a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.

QUIZ ANSWERS

1) Checkmate!  This sort of Checkmate is also referred to as a “smother-mate”.  Notice how the black King is completely blocked in by his own pieces?  This allows white to Checkmate black using nothing but his Knight!  These are always fun because your opponent is almost helping you to beat him.

2) Checkmate!  The white King is in Check by black’s Pawn at e2.  He cannot take this attacking pawn because then the white King would capture him.  He also cannot move to any other square because he’d be under attack by other pieces (a Bishop at e1, a Rook at c1 and c2, and the opposing King at c2 and d2).  There is also nothing that can intercept.

3) Stalemate!  Well… at least if we say it’s black’s turn!  If it’s black’s turn, black is unable to move his king anywhere without being attacked by either the Pawn at g7 or the opposing King.  And his other pieces are blocked and unable to move.  If it’s White’s move, he can win very easily in a couple of moves.  But for the sake of this quiz, we’ll say it’s black’s move and he’s been stalemated.

4) Check! The white Queen threatens the black King, but black can simply intercept with the Knight.

5) Checkmate!  This is a NEARLY identical position as 4.  The only change is that now black cannot use the Knight to intercept the white Queen, because then white’s Rook at c8 would be able to capture the King.

How’d you do?  If you missed any, go back and look at the position again to figure out why you got it wrong.

Moving on… Today, we’re going to talk about 3 special moves: Castling, En Passant, and Pawn Promotion.  These are moves that can be done, but I didn’t include them in our initial discussion of how the pieces move (with exception of Caslting) because they’re special circumstance moves.  But we’re going to talk about them now that you have a better understanding of what’s going on.

Castling

As mentioned before, when you Castle, you are giving your King a little extra protection.  Thank of it as moving him from the courtyard to the nearly impenetrable tower!  You can Castle either to the kingside or queenside by moving the King 2 spaces toward the Rook, and then placing that Rook immediately to the other side of the King.  This is demonstrated n this illustration:

You may Castle only once per game, and there are a few rules about Castling you must obey.

1) The King must not have moved from his starting square before you Castle.

2) The Rook that you Castle in-tandem with the King must not have moved from its starting location.

3) You cannot Castle while in Check.  If a piece is attacking your King, you can’t escape it by Castling.

4) You cannot Castle THROUGH Check.  If a piece is not attacking your King, but it’s pointed sniper-style at one of the spaces your King would have to go through for a Castle, then you cannot Castle.  This last rule may seem a bit tricky, but it’s very simple.

In this picture, you can Castle:

In this picture, you cannot castle because the King would have to move through a space that’s being targeted by black’s Bishop:

Castling is usually a good idea because it gives the King extra protection by placing it behind a wall of Pawns one one side and the Rook on the other, as well as getting it further out of reach of the opposing Queen.  ONLY Castle, though, if it puts your King in a more protected area.  For instance, in the following image, you would NOT want to Castle kingside, because the King would actually become MORE exposed to danger.

Do you see how Castling now would cause problems for white?  If  white castles, then black will bring his light-square Bishop to h3, which threatens a 1-move checkmate by the Queen taking the pawn at g2:

White can try to stop this mate by pushing the g-pawn, but then he loses a rook for a bishop:

Or if he moves the Knight to h4, he’ll lose a Knight and a Pawn for a Bishop and a torn open king side:

So while Castling is USUALLY a good defense, keep your eyes peeled to make sure it actually protects you.


CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #5 – Check, Checkmate, Stalemate

Now that you know how the pieces move (at least, you do if you read the last 2 blogs… if you haven’t read them, please go back and do so now), you need to learn how to win!  There are two ways to win: 1) get your opponent in checkmate, 2) your opponent realizes it’s futile for him/her to continue and simply resigns.  Be careful though, as your opponent could try to force a draw from a stalemate.

So what do “check”, “checkmate” and “stalemate” mean, and what are the differences?  Well I’m glad you asked!  Let’s start with the one that’s not a game-ender…

CHECK

In “All About Pieces (part 1)” I made the comment that the King is worth so many points you can actually potentially win the game just by threatening to capture him.  Well, that’s if the threat is so powerful there’s nothing the opponent can do.  If the opponent CAN stop the threat, the threat is simply called Check.

Check is when a piece is placed in a position where it threatens to capture the King on its next move, BUT the side being threatened is able to put a stop to the threat.  Let’s look at a couple examples.  (Please forgive the numbers and letters not being as neat as they should be.  My chess software doesn’t have the board labeled, so I have to do it myself in MSPaint).

In this position, the black bishop has the white king in Check- it is threatening to capture the King on it’s next move.  Black does not win, however, because White can easily block the check by pushing his c-Pawn (the pawn in front of his queen-side bishop), or by moving his Knight to c3.

There are 3 ways to get out of Check.  1) intercept- this is the example I just used, where you put something in the way of the check. 2) capture the attacking piece. 3) move the King out of Check.  Here’s one more example of a check, which the threatened side has the choice of doing all 3 options:

The white Bishop has the black King in Check.  Black has numerous options here.  He can capture the white bishop with his h-Pawn, he can block the Bishop’s path with either one of his Knights, he can block with his light-squared Bishop, he can block with his Queen, or he can simply move the King out of the way at D2.

So what’s the difference between Check and Checkmate?

CHECKMATE

Checkmate is when you put your opponent in Check (threatening the King), and there is nothing they can do to stop it! For instance

In this position, the white Queen has the black King in Checkmate.  Why?  Well, the King is obviously in Check because the Queen threatens to capture the King on her next move.  With the Queen so close to the King, there aren’t any spaces for any piece to intercept. There are no pieces that can take the Queen (do you see that if the King captures the Queen, white’s Bishop will then capture the King?), and anywhere the King tries to flee to, the Queen will capture him.  The Queen threatens the King and there’s nothing black can do to stop it, black is therefore in Checkmate, and has lost the game.

So then, what’s the difference between Checkmate and Stalemate?

STALEMATE

A Stalemate is a draw.  It’s where one side is NOT in check, but anything he does will cause him to BE in Check.  Let’s look at an example.

In this diagram, it’s currently black’s move.  He is in Stalemate.  Sure, it looks like white wins because he has a King and a Queen left where as black has only his King.  But, like I said, it’s black’s move… and he can’t go anywhere!  In his current position, the black King is NOT in check!  However, anywhere he moves, he would be placing himself in check (he’d get taken by the Queen at d1, d2, c2 and b1; he’d get taken by the white King at c2 and b2).  This is therefore a Stalemate and counts as a draw!

Let’s end this blog with a little Quiz.  Below are 5 positions.  See if you can figure out if each position is a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.  I’ll post the answers in the next blog, where we’ll talk more in depth about that special move I told you about once before: Castling.


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