chess tournaments Posts

US Open Chess Takes Center Stage Beginning this Weekend

What’s your move?

Each year a new chess champion is crowned at the US Open, and 2013 will be no different.  In the 113th edition of the US Open chess tournament, the matches will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, where chess has been growing in popularity and standing amongst the locals.  One player in particular has drawn immense interest to the tournament this upcoming week, and that chess player is Awonder Liang, a local 10-year old who has become the youngest ever American to be officially crowned as a chess master.  Making his first appearance at the US Open (which uses no age restriction) means that Liang will have an opportunity to make chess history! (more…)

Chess Basic Tactics Series #8 – Final Thoughts and Motivating Words

During the last few weeks we have been learning basic tactics. In this post I’m going to change the pace a bit and write a few words on topics that I believe are overlooked in competitive activities.

Besides chess I have several other hobbies. Many of these are hobbies that I have dedicated myself to for many years. Over the years I’ve noticed that the things that hold people back from improving are almost always the same no matter what the activity.

First and foremost many people underestimate the time required to become proficient. They’ll take up chess, play for a few months, realize it’s difficult, and then quit. It’s important to realize that there is a direct correlation between time invested and skill level. I’m sure if there were studies done, we would find that most grandmasters have studied more than masters, who have studied more than experts etc. etc.

The second thing that holds many people back is the failure to practice correctly. The way to improve your skill level is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are forced to adapt. You must increase the difficulty level and push yourself. If you are studying a tactical problem and the answer doesn’t come to you study it further. The corrolary to this to get out of your comfort zone and practice playing positions that you are uncomfortable with. For example, if you primarily play 1. e4, try playing 1. d4 for several games. We must work on our weaknesses if we want to be complete. This is true in chess or anything else.

The fear of losing is also something that can hold someone back. My answer to this is to lose your ego. Even the best players in the world lose sometimes. What separates people is the ability to come back and keep fighting.

The last thing I want to say is that it’s you and only you who can determine your potential. For someone who really wants to do something there’s nothing holding them back. A lot of people want certain things, but they aren’t willing to change or put in the hard work to get there. When you feel like quitting say to yourself; I have to keep going no matter what. Chess history is filled with games where a player turned around a losing position to win or draw. History is filled with examples of people coming back from extremely difficult situations and succeeding. Use these examples as inspiration, and remember, never stop, just keep going.

 

Chess Noob #20 – Ratings

As has been previously mentioned, most tournaments pair you with players of similar ratings.  But what exactly IS a rating?  What does it mean?  How is it tabulated? Can YOU become a Grandmaster?

A rating is a 3-4 digit number associated with a player to showcase their playing strength.  The higher the number, the better the player… the lower the number, weaker the player.  The lowest possible rating is 100.  The highest possible rating (in theory) is 3000, although the highest rating any chess player has managed to achieve was 2851 which was held by the World Champion at the time, Garry Kasparov.  Pretty straight forward right?  But with such a huge difference in highest possible and lowest possible, how can you tell if your rating is any good and where you stand in the grand scheme of things?

FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation) and the USCF (United States Chess Federation) use similar ratings for classes of player.  Those classes are as follows:

2600 or more are World Championship Contenders.  2400-2600 are where most Senior Masters (SMs), International Masters (IMs), and Grandmasters (GMs) are rated.  2300-2400 is the ratings for most FIDE Masters (FMs).  2200-2300 are ratings where you’ll find most National Masters (NMs) and FIDE Candidate Masters (CMs).  2000-2200 is considered Expert.  1800-2000 are Class A.  1600-1800 are Class B.  1400-1600 are Class C. 1200-1400 are Class D.  In FIDE, anyone under 1200 is simply considered a Novice, although in the USCF, the classes continue. 1000-1200 is Class E.  800-1000 is Class F. 600-800 is Class G.  400-600 is Class H. 200-400 is Class I.  100-200 is Class J.  As mentioned before, 100 is the lowest possible rating a chess player can get (I’d thought that while 100 is techncially possible that nobody with a 100 rating existed… but at the World Open in the U900 section there was one player with a rating of 101 and another with a rating of 104… I was surprised to say the least).

Despite the above, a high rating is not the only thing you need to achieve a Grandmaster title.  You also need to get Grandmaster Norms.  Norms are hard to get.  There are very specific rules to get norms, which you if  can find out for yourself by visiting this link:  http://www.fide.com/component/handbook/?id=58&view=article  but basically you have to do very well in a long tournament against at least 3 other Grandmasters.

So how are chess ratings figured out?  Well, I don’t want to bore you with a big equation (because, frankly, the actual equation used boggles my own mind), but basically at each tournament, you’re give a “K-factor” number which is based on your rating at the start of the tournament and how many rounds there will be in the tournament.  Then, each round, there is a table that’s used (that you can find if you check the USCF rule book or the FIDE rulebook out of your local library) where each round you find your K-factor, then find the point difference between you and your opponent (so if you’re rated 1100 and your opponent is 1200, you’re looking for a difference of 100).  It will then tell you how many rating points each player will gain or lose if a) the higher rated person wins, b) the lower rated person wins, or c) the game ends in a draw.  In the case of a draw, the higher rated player loses points and the lower rated player gains points, bringing the two players’ ratings closer together.

There’s not much reason to know exactly how to tabulate your ratings, though, as most tournaments will post results (and new ratings) to FIDE or USCF and will soon become viewable.  The USCF, for instance, posts results and new ratings within 2 days after every chess tournament.

The USCF publishes new official ratings for players every month.  FIDE publishes new official ratings every 2 months.  So you’ll never have to be a certain rating for very long (good news for those trying to get over a certain rating “hump”).

Hopefully all this wasn’t too confusing.  If it was…. don’t sweat it… just go and play chess with the knowledge that your rating will get better the more games you win!

Have a question or topic you want me to cover in a future edition of Chess Noob?  E-mail me at flannelmann@yahoo.com

Chess Noob #19- What to Expect at Tournaments

One of the best ways to improve your chess game is by playing at tournaments.  It’s also fun and exciting (and from time to time profitable as well)!  There are many kinds of chess tournaments one can enter depending on the age and rating (we’ll talk about ratings in a blog in the near future), style of tournament, etc.  So  what should you expect at a tournament?  Let’s take a look at the different kinds and what each is like.

Scholastic Tournaments: Scholastic tournaments are for kids only.  Typically, these are for children in grades K-12 and will have pairing split into sections based on grade and/or rating.  There will often be hundreds (if not thousands) of children depending on the size and importance of the tournament… in other words, these tournaments are often very noise between rounds (and since many scholastic players tend to rush in their games, there won’t be much time of peace and quiet).

Open Tournaments: These are for children and adults alike.  Age doesn’t matter in an open tournament where it’s all about the rating!  If you’re a 1200 rated player in the U1300 section, you’ll be combatting other players with ratings of 1299 and below whether they are 6 or 60.  And don’t feel bad if you lose to a child… they have way more free time to study than you do!

Quad Tourneys: If the tournament you play is is a Quad, that means there will be 4-person sections.  The 4 people in each section will have very similar ratings to one another.  In a Quad tournament, there are 3 rounds (unless it’s a “double quad”) where each player in the section will play one another round-robin style and the person with the most wins is the winner of the section.

Swiss Tourneys: A Swiss tournament will pair winners against winners and losers against losers.  Each win gets you 1 point, each draw gets you 1/2 a point, and each loss gets you 0 points.  Every round after the 1st round, players with the same number of points will duke it out.  There are no eliminations, so even if you lose every game, you’ll continue to play the entire tournament.  The first round is slightly different… since everyone is starting off with 0 points, everyone is in the same “bracket”.  They will line up everyone in the section according to ratings, then cut the list in half.  The top person of the top half plays the top person of the bottom half, the second person of the top half plays the second person of the bottom half and so on.  The same thing happens every round… but each round the list of players that needs to be divvied up is smaller as there will be less and less people who have the same scores as one another.

Quick VS Normal: “Quick” tournaments (whether they are swiss or quad) will consist of all games that are 30-min or less for time control (usually G/20).  “Normal” (non-quick) tournaments have varied time controls that could be anywhere from G/35 to 40/2.

Often, these tournaments will take place either at a hotel with a large ballroom, or a school gynmasium.

You’ll likely want to bring your own food as hotel food and/or vendors can get expensive.

If the tournament is at a hotel, you may want to book a room at the site hotel so you can just go straight to bed after a late round and sleep in longer than if you stay at a hotel that’s a 30 min drive away but cheaper.

Nearly all tournaments also have “Skittles Rooms”, where players can congregate to chit-chat, go over games, study,  or play casual chess.

Most tournaments will also have a chess store, which sells sets, clocks, books, dvds and more.  Make use of these stores.  If there’s a certain opening you want to learn, find a book about it at the store (they’re often times on sale).

Now that you know what to expect, the only thing to worry about is the entry fee, which can range anywhere from $2 for local mini-tournaments at your local chess club to over $300 for the World Open!  Look for tournaments that have a good entry-to-prize ratio and that has sections you think you might be able to win!


Chess Noob #16 – The Pin

 

“The pin” is one of the most powerful tactics you can have in your arsenal of attacks.  No, I’m not talking about putting anyone’s shoulders on the ground and there are no 3-counts.  Think of chess more as a war game than anything else… and “the pin” is when you’re attacking so heavily that a piece is “pinned down” and literally cannot move.

Pins can be performed on any piece, making it immobile out of the fear of having the king (or queen, or other higher cost piece) getting captured.  It’s a very simple tactic, but a very strong one at the same time.

One of the most usual pins you’ll see is a bishop pinning a Knight.  It happens very frequently in games, and in many openings you’ll see a position that looks something like this:

The knight can’t move because black would be putting himself in check by doing so.  A normal response would be to push the A-pawn to cause the bishop to retreat.  White can of course (and often does) take the knight forcing black to double up his pawns in the c-file, but not always.

You’ll also, a lot of time, see a similar bishop-to-knight pin where the bishop will capture the queen if the knight is moved.  This can be seen here:

The Bishop, however is not the only piece that can create pins.  Here are a few other powerful pin examples:

Here, white has black’s knight at F7 pinned… HOWEVER, black has a much more powerful pin.  Black is checking white with the Knight at F2.  White would LIKE to take the knight with his Rook, but the Rook is pinned in place by black’s Queen!

And can you see in this one that Black’s Queen is a gonner no matter what Black does?

In these examples, the pin was due to a check that would occur if the piece moved.  That’s not always the case.  In this next example, a lesser piece is pinned because a more powerful piece would be taken, making the pinned piece an easy target:

Black would LIKE to either take the pawn at f4 or push to e4 to make White’s Knight retreat.  If he does either of these moves, however, he will lose his Rook!

Pinning a piece down for threat of either a check or winning a larger piece is a good way to make your opponent’s troops immobile and in many cases win material.  Be on the lookout for pin opportunities for both sides of the board.  Yes, you want to try to pin down your opponent’s pieces, but remember, they want the same thing!