CategoriesChess For Beginners

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!


CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #11 – Time Control

If you’ve ever seen people playing chess in a park somewhere (even if it’s just in a movie like “Searching for Bobby Fisher”… which I might do a movie review of for a blog one day), you’ll notice they are often moving quickly and hitting clocks.

When a player is brand new to chess, one of two things will happen: 1) they are totally scared of the clock and/or forget it’s even there and keep forgetting to hit it, or 2) they are so overzealous about the appeal of hitting a clock that they bang the buttons so hard it seems like they may cause collateral damage!

But what is the clock really for, and what do time controls mean?  Let’s take a look.

Time control is how long each player has to complete their portion of a chess game.  This can be anywhere from many hours to just a few minutes.  Every tournament will have a time control written in specific ways.  Every internet chess website will have various time controls to choose from as well.

If the game is not over but one player runs out of time on their clock, that player automatically loses the game.  This is called “losing on time”

On tournament posters, you’ll see the time control written as (# of moves)/(length of time).  This will often be followed by something like SD/(length of time) or (length of time)d or (length of time)inc.  Here’s a few examples:

“G/60” would mean “game in 60″… in other words each opponent gets 1 hour on their side of the clock (making a potentially 2-hour game) and the game MUST be finished within that time limit.  As stated before, if a player runs out of time before the game is over, they lose the game.

“40/90, SD/1” means 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by an hour of sudden death.  In other words, each player gets 90 minutes on their clock.  If the game is still going after both players have made 40 moves, and neither player has run out of time, an additional hour is added to both sides of the clock and the game MUST conclude by the end of the new time.

“G/45, 5d” Like before this would mean “game in 45 minutes”, but this has the addition of a 5-second time delay.  Time Delay is when the time on the clock (always digital for delay) pauses for the first few seconds (in this case 5 seconds) of every turn before counting down.  This extra time is to give the player adequate time to write the notation for the move that was just made by their opponent, without cutting into their time.

“40/90, 30inc” is 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by a time where 30 second increments are added to the clock.  Incremental time control is a fairly new idea and only comes on the newest clocks.  In the United States, it’s only used in the upper sections of big tournaments, although internationally FIDE uses it for all their events.  What it means is that an increment of time is added to a players clock so that they will have at least a certain amount of time to make a move.  In this example, after the first 40 moves (which each player has 90 minutes to make), sudden death comes into effect but instead of a set time control, 30 seconds is added to their clock after every move.  This ensures that even if a player is basically out of time, they’ll have a minimum of 30 seconds to make a move.  If incremental time controls aren’t utilized, a player could have to make a move with only a couple seconds to spare (as in literally 2 seconds).

It would be wise to invest in a digital chess clock that has at least a time delay function, such as the DTG series clocks which can be purchased right here at The Regency Chess Company.

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 Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #1 – Pins and Skewers

If you’ve read my previous post, then you know that studying tactics is one of the most important things you can do to improve your game. In this series, I’m going to go deeper, define, and give examples of some basic tactics. Before we get into the fun stuff, let me first give some required definitions.

In chess tactics can be defined as short term opportunities where one player makes threats against the opponent.  Pins and skewers, are just two examples of various tactics that are used in a chess game. A pin in chess is when you attack a piece that can not move out the way because it would allow capture of a piece of greater value. There are two types of pins, absolute pins and relative pins. Let’s look at some examples.

This first diagram is an example of an absolute pin. The black knight on c6 is absolutely pinned to the king because the knight cannot move. In chess, it is illegal to move a piece and expose your king to check. Keep in mind that absolute pins are more powerful than relative pins for this very reason, the piece that is pinned is completely stuck!

 

The next diagram is an example of a relative pin. The knight on f3 is pinned to the queen. Unlike the first example, it is possible for the knight on f3 to legally move. Doing so however would be bad since it would lose the queen which is more valuable than the knight.

One thing to remember is that only queens, rooks, and bishops can pin other pieces.

The next tactic we will discuss is the skewer. A skewer is very similar to a pin, however in the case of a skewer the more valuable piece is in front of the piece of equal or lesser value. When the more valuable piece moves, it exposes the less valuable piece to capture. Just like pins there are absolute skewers and relative skewers. Let’s look at some examples.

The following diagram shows an example of two skewers. The white queen is skewering the black king on a5 and black rook on a8. Since the black king is in check it must move out of the way allowing the capture of the rook. Also, the white bishop is skewering the black rook on f6 and the black knight on g7. Since the rook is more valuable than the knight, when it moves it allows capture of the knight. Just like pins, only the straight line pieces, queens, bishops, and rooks can skewer.

 

I hope this post helped you get your feet wet with some basic tactics! In the next post in this series we will discuss double attacks. In the meantime start improving your tactics play by solving some chess puzzles!

CategoriesChess Games

Are Chess Masters Born or Made?

Chess is an interesting game because the skill level that is involved is completely measurable. In chess, a rating system is used that determines the chances that a certain player will win the game. For example, if two players have equal ratings, each player has a 50% chance of winning the game.  If one player is rated 200 ELO points above the other, he has around a 75% chance of winning the game.

When we encounter a highly rated player it’s natural to wonder how he or she became so good at chess. Two master level players can play a blitz game in a few minutes that resembles a work of art. It’s admirable to watch each of them making beautiful moves in mere seconds. To us mortals we tend to wonder to ourselves: ‘How can I do that?!’ Despite these thoughts, studies have shown that much of what makes up skill is actually a result of continuous practice. Even if someone is born with great talent they still require hours of practice and dedication. It is obvious then that great talent without work ethic is worth little.

A famous psychologist and chess master, Adriaan de Groot showed that master level players were able to recognize patterns of pieces on the chessboard much faster than non-masters. When masters were asked to memorize a pattern of pieces that resembled a real game they did considerably better than non-masters. However, when they were asked to memorize a random assortment of pieces they did no better than the amateurs. He found that masters had thousands of patterns in their head from previous experience. This subconscious database gave them a big edge over lesser skilled players. So how do you build up our chess memory? Study tactical and strategic patterns. As you study these patterns over and over, they will become part of your memory. Then during the course of one of your own games suddenly you will get an idea or inspiration. That’s your previous experience at work. As you learn more patterns, your skill level increases, and then maybe you too will play a game that’s a work of art!

CategoriesWorld Chess

sooooo many ties!

Just like there were sooooo many players in the World Open, there were soooo many ties for various prizes in every section.  Not one person swept their section (although one player in one section came very close), and there were often 2, 3 and even 8 way ties for each place in each section.

This particular blog is much less of a blog, and much more of a results recap.  Personally, I only won 4.5 out of 9 games (I ended up with 3 wins, 3 losses and 3 draws).  So I only came in 39th place in my section.  Here’s how some other people did:

Under 900: James K Snee (rated 844) from Louisiana, USA took 1st place in the under 900 section winning 8 out of 9 games.  The only player in that section that bested Snee was Pennsylvania player Ithan Sandoval-Lorenzo who only managed to come in 12th place (just short of being able to take home prize money).  David Wu from New York came in 2nd place with 7.5 out of 9.  Tied for 3rd with 7 out of 9 each were Charity Brickman from New York and Leighton E Barrett from Jamaica.  And the top 10 was completed with a 7-way tie for 3rd (making 1 person win money but not technically being in the top 10).

Under 1200: In the under 1200 section, there was a 2-way tie for 1st place between Jason Lawson from Jamaica and Efthymios Papageorgiou from New York.  Both players, however, had provisional ratings based on less than 26 tournament games.  This fact made both players only eligable for up to $1500… so while the top prize was $5,000 for the section, each were only allowed $1500 for their scores of 7.5 out of 9.  What happens to the left over money?  It went to lower places, allowing for many more people to walk away with prize money!  There was a 3-way tie for 2nd place with scores of 7 out of 9, then a 6-way tie for third place and finally a 9-way tie for 3rd place where each person in the 9-way tie took home a mere $28.12.

Under 1400: Top prize in the Under 1400 section went to Manuel J Then of New York with 8 out of 9 wins.  This is even more impressive when you consider that he was the 11th lowest rated person in the section at 1200 (his new rating after the tournament is 1583)!  Second place went to Evan B Mossman of Pennsylvania with 7.5 out of 9, followed by a 4-way tie for third, a 4-way tie for 4th and a 5-way tie for 5th place.

Under 1600: The 1st place prize for the Under 1600 section went to Ryan Arab, a buddy of mine from my local chess club.  He did better than anyone in any section in the entire tournament with a whopping 8.5 out of 9 wins!  The closest anyone came to beating Ryan was Carlos D Hoyos who managed to get a draw with Ryan, but only managed to be part of a 9-way tie for 4th.  In between were ties for both 2nd and 3rd.

Under 1800: Eimer A Romero took 1st place in the U1800 section with 8 out of 9.  Below him was a 2 way tie for 2nd, a 5-way tie for 3rd and a 9-way tie for 4th.

Under 2000:Jesus Orozco from California took 1st place in the U2000 section with 8 of 9 wins.  Two players managed to get draws from Jesus, one of which tied for 3rd place (along with five other players) and a player who did not even come close to placing in the top 10!  Jesus took home nearly $11,000!  Due to ties, the top 10 prizes got stretched out among 18 players for this section.

Under 2200: Lorand Bela Kis won this section with 8 out of 9, getting draws with two of the 12 players that tied for 3rd place after a 3-way tie for 2nd.

Under 2400: In the under 2400 section, there was a 2-way tie for first place between Carl Brandon Boor and Miles F Ardaman each with 7.5 out of 9, followed by Alexander R Katz who took 2nd place by himself and then an 8-way tie for third which included several IM’s from the USA, India, Nigeria, and Russia and Croacia.

Open: The open section is where all the Grandmasters live!  This section consisted of 118 players including 33 GMs (I apparently miscounted when I claimed 27 last week), 2 WGMs, 20 IMs, 1 WIM, 11 FMs and a smattering of non-master players with ratings between 1828 and 2600.  The GMs faught back and forth where the top prize was split between GM Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands and GM Alexander Shabalov from the United States.  Each had 7 out of 9 and took home close to $13,000 each!  There was then a 7-way tie for 2nd place and a 10-way tie for 3rd.

CategoriesChess For Beginners

About the lecture/analysis (sorry it’s late)

I know I said I was going to post a blog right after the lecture by GM Sam Palatnik.  I was unable to find the time, however, to even turn my laptop on (partly because of how long some of my chess matches lasted, and partly because my laptop is an ancient piece of machinery that LITERALLY takes over 10 minutes to load and another 5 minutes to even open an internet browser.

That being said, I also didn’t bother to take notes on things from the lecture to rehash for you, dear novice chess playing reader, because it quickly became apparent that the lecture was not geared toward the beginning chess player.  This blog is!  The lecture would have been over the heads of many of my readers for the simple reason that it was mostly about various systems and how to deal with them… and since you may not know any openings yet (I know I haven’t discussed any openings yet in this blog… partly because openings are not my strong point) the lecture would not have been all that useful to you.

I also attended some of the analysis the grand master provided for player’s games.  I wanted him to analyze a game I had just lost, but there were several people ahead of me and by the time it would have been my turn, he started packing it in to go to lunch, so I never got my turn.  *sad face*

I will say that GM Sam Palatnik is a very good speaker despite his thick Ukrainian accent.  For a man his age, the great chess player was very good at being relative (and fun) to the modern (younger) chess player.  He would make amusing quips that had everyone in the room laugh out loud and was very good at demonstrating his ideas in concise and understandable ways.  It’s a shame he didn’t have the time to analyze my game (luckily a few friends of mine at the tournament went over it with me and we found the move I should have made – rather than the mistake I made that in my opinion lost the game for me).

So I apologize I didn’t get the article up when I said I would and about what I said I would, but what you CAN take from the lecture you didn’t attend is this: Buy GM Sam Palatnik’s books (they can be found on Amazon.com) to learn about various systems of play (including the Sicilian and the Tarrasch) and chess strategies and tactics planning for the tournament player.