Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘Chess

A game against a computer, and I won. Ha ha ha.

leave a comment »

I have Spark Chess and frequently play a game against Claire. Win some, lose some, but I save those that I win, so in retrospect, my recorded games look pretty good. Here’s one. I’m White.

  1. d4 f5
  2. e3 Na6
  3. Bc4 d5
  4. Bb3 g5
  5. Ne2 Nh6
  6. f4 gxf4
  7. exf4 b5
  8. O-O e6
  9. Nd2 Bg7
  10. Nf3 O-O
  11. Ne5 c5
  12. c3 c4
  13. Bc2 Bxe5
  14. fxe5 Nf7
  15. Nf4 h6
  16. Nh5 b4
  17. Nf6+ Kh8
  18. Qh5 bxc3
  19. bxc3 Qb6
  20. Bxh6 Nxh6
  21. Qxh6# { – White wins. } 1-0

I really don’t know how to play against the Dutch Defense. I play it like Sicilian Gambit Declined. In this case, it worked, but the game is probably horrible. In Go games between novices, it’s said that the winner is the player who made the next-to-last mistake.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Games

Tagged with

One nominee for the greatest game of chess

leave a comment »

Via Jason Kottke, who also points out this game:

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2017 at 9:59 am

Posted in Games

Tagged with

A great site for chessplayers

with 3 comments

It even helps you learn from your own mistakes (as well as the mistakes of others) through computer analysis of the play of the game. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2016 at 9:59 am

Posted in Games

Tagged with

The Queen is a useless piece

with one comment

A really terrific game. Among board games, my preference is Go, but chess has some wonderful aspects. This game, from 2016, is worth watching (if you play chess, of course). The comment is “Fabiano Caruana sacrifices his Queen for two Knights against his US compatriot Hikaru Nakamura in the 2016 London Chess Classic, stating that in this type of position the Queen is a useless piece.”

 

Written by Leisureguy

21 December 2016 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Tagged with

The greatest chess game ever?

with one comment

There is a fairly large number of really amazing chess games: the Game of the Century (1956, Bobby Fisher v. Donald Byrne), the Evergreen Game (1852, Adolf Anderssen v. Jean Dufresne). This one is the 1999 game between Gary Kasparov and Veselin Topalov. If you have 10 minutes, it’s worth seeing.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2015 at 10:24 am

Posted in Games

Tagged with

Tarrasch cleans Nimzowitsch’s clock

leave a comment »

Lovely mate.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2015 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Tagged with

Superb sacrifices in chess

leave a comment »

I would have guess Bobby Fischer and Robert Byrne’s game in 1956, but others were new to me, and the first is quite wonderful. Take a look.

And while we’re on chess, take a look at this:

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2013 at 8:51 am

Posted in Games

Tagged with

Dominic Lawson on Chess

leave a comment »

Very interesting (to me) interview with Dominic Lawson:

Dominic Lawson is the former editor of The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph, and a columnist for The Independentand The Sunday Times. He has a particular passion for chess, writes a chess column forStandpoint and is the author of The Inner Game, a behind-the-scenes account of the World Chess Championship of 1993 between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short

The interview begins:

You don’t have to be a genius to play chess, but it helps. The journalist tells us about the logical beauty of the game, its history and political context, and the lives and minds of its greatest masters

I’ve always been intrigued by the image chess has in the West as this indicator of extreme, logical intelligence. It really irritates some of my Russian friends, who say, “What a load of nonsense! It’s just a game.”

I don’t think it’s true that chess is a touchstone for the intellect or that it requires an astonishingly logical mind to be very good at it, though it probably helps. Mikhail Botvinnik, who was world champion on and off from 1948 to 1963, said that if music was “an art that illustrates the beauty of sound”, then chess was “an art that illustrates the beauty of logic”. It’s interesting that he used the word art. Chess does correspond, in some ways, to what we see in art ­– it does have a kind of beauty, and the appeal is very strongly aesthetic to those who actually have eyes to see it. But it’s also a sport and a game – it can be played just as a game, and just as a sport.

Do you have to be very clever to be good at it?

It would be difficult to be strong at chess if you had a subnormal IQ, but you certainly don’t need an IQ of above average. I’m sure you could find very strong grandmasters with IQs around about the 100 mark, which is the average. It was always said that [late chess grandmaster Bobby] Fischer had an IQ of 180. I don’t know if there is any evidence for that. It wouldn’t surprise me, but I don’t know what the proof is.

What I have noticed in very strong players, though, is an extraordinary degree of concentration. You really do have to concentrate very hard for long periods. There is a very boring phrase for that, which is hard work. That’s often underestimated, while the idea of effortless genius is greatly overestimated. And if it is hard work – and it is – then you must get something really quite special out of it, to put yourself through it. You need to really hate losing. Someone once said, “Chess is a battle between your aversion to the pain of losing, and your aversion to the pain of thinking.” Because hard thinking is stressful and difficult. Quite often, the reason why, as we get older, we lose more games of chess – certainly in my case – is that you begin to get more pain from thinking than you do from losing. Also, if you’re a young person, you’re probably rejecting other ways of occupying your time, which most people would think are more pleasurable, whether it’s watching Teen Idol or playing football or having a drink. It has to really excite you, so motivation plays a huge part. That’s often described as natural ability, but it may actually be a description of something that is more like desire, a really huge desire.

Bobby Fischer claimed he was a genius who happened to play chess, but if you look at his life history he was absolutely obsessed and playing chess constantly from age six.

Fischer became American champion at the age of 14, which is astonishing. But if you think about the amount of effort he put in between learning to play and becoming American champion, it was a huge amount, because he dropped everything else. This partly links into the idea in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers of the 10,000 hours [needed to succeed], which he borrows from various psychologists. I think there is a lot to that. There are exceptions. At the very, very top of the distribution, you get people like Magnus Carlsen, the 20-year-old Norwegian who is the world’s strongest player at the moment. I remember speaking to his father, and he said that at the age of three Magnus would sit for hours doing 50-piece jigsaw puzzles – very unusual behaviour for a three-year-old. Or you have [José Raúl] Capablanca, who was probably the most naturally talented chess player that ever lived. He learned the game at the age of four just by watching his father play. He then beat his father at four and went on to become world champion. He clearly had something very, very special. There was something in the cast of his mind that grasped these concepts with amazing rapidity and very naturally. I don’t know whether the word innate is right, but there’s clearly something there that isn’t normal. But it’s statistically so incredibly unusual that you can almost disregard it.

For people reading this, who might know you as a British newspaper editor and columnist, do you want to explain your connection to chess?

Chess is my particular passion. I became reasonably good at it and I still play for my county, Sussex. I also write a monthly column in Standpoint on chess. I learned the rules of chess when I was eight, at school. Then I lost interest completely. I didn’t come from a chess-playing home or family. In fact, I think I had to teach my father to play. I didn’t really get interested again until my mid-teens, which perhaps ties in with my first book. This is when Bobby Fischer was mounting his assault on the World Chess Championship in the early 1970s. For someone interested in politics, there was a context which will never be repeated – the American loner against, as it seemed, the might of the Soviet Union. The Soviets had made it almost the national sport, and every single world champion since World War II had been a Soviet. I wouldn’t say Russian, although they were described as Russians. One was from Latvia, another from Armenia. Many of them, in fact, were also Jewish, which was never mentioned.

That period was the first time I really got to grips with it. I remember Nigel Short, who was phenomenally strong as a young player, saying to me, “Oh well, Dominic, that was too late!” He said he was lucky, because he was much younger when the Fischer phenomenon hit the West. You had to be much younger to get the bug in order to become very strong. When I won a cash prize at a tournament my father said to me, “That’s good! That means I don’t have to give you any pocket money. But it’s a mistake to think you can make a career out of it.” Of course he was quite right. Very, very few people are especially good at it. I discovered when I was at Oxford, and I was up against people who became very strong grandmasters, like John Nunn and Jon Speelman, that I had no real gift. Their mental hardware was simply miles better than my mental hardware – they just saw things that much more quickly and their powers of visualisation were so much greater.

So Bobby Fischer gave you the bug. Tell me about his book, My 60 Memorable Games.

It’s not clear how much of this book was written by Fischer and how much was written by a grandmaster called Larry Evans, who was a friend of his and a very strong player. Nonetheless, officially, this is Fischer’s only game collection. The 60 games begin in 1957 and go up to 1967, so it’s only 10 years. What is very attractive about the book – apart from the fact that Fischer was such an extraordinary player and analyst – is the honesty of his comments. There was always a simplicity to Fischer which was seductive, even if at times it could also be very crude. Now one thinks of Fischer as someone who would never admit to any kind of error or weakness, but this book sprang from an earlier part of his life.

He’s laceratingly self-critical, which is quite unusual in these kinds of books. He uses phrases like, “I already knew that I had been outplayed.” Or, “I just underestimated the force of his reply.” It also contains three of his losses, whereas you tend to find in these “best of my games” books that it will all be wins.

At the beginning, he quotes Emanuel Lasker, a great world champion of the early 20th century, saying that on the chessboard, “Lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of the lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.” This is an aspect of chess which was especially compelling to me as an adolescent. There is no hypocrisy in it, no duplicity. Everything is open, you can’t hide and you can’t prevaricate. To people of a certain age, boys perhaps, that is very attractive. And Fischer, in that sense, never grew up.

The games themselves, Fischer’s best games, have a fantastic clarity, which is particular to his style. A lot of the very greatest players, and particularly the Soviet players, rather relished high levels of strategic and tactical complexity. Fischer sought clarity, and achieving it is, in a way, more difficult. This is why sometimes comparisons are made between Fischer and Mozart. As a young player, learning chess, you may not be able to emulate it, but you can understand clearly what he is trying to do. It’s not sophisticated, it’s not deliberately obscure. That was very attractive to me, and many other people, coming to terms with the game at that period.

People say he made it look easy.

Yes, but it’s deceptive because clearly he puts huge effort into it. Certainly he had a brain that cut through problems. Often, I suppose, that is the key to the great chess imagination – being able to see what the shortest route is from A to B, when it isn’t necessarily obvious. His play was very streamlined.

Was that the first chess book you read?

No, but it was the first one I found inspirational, partly because he described not just the moves but the psychology, what was going on at the board.

Give me an example.

There’s the game he played against the Yugoslav player [Petar] Trifunovic, game number 33 in the book, played in Bled in 1961. Trifunovic was a very solid player, extremely hard to beat. At one stage Fischer writes “I was considering a move, Bishop to N5”. He gives it a question mark – denoting a blunder – and says, “Trifunovic seemed too quiet all of a sudden, and I suspected he’d tuned into my brain waves.” Fischer goes on to write that it was only because he had sensed his opponent’s unnatural stillness that “at the last minute” he saw that the move he was about to play, B-N5, would in fact have been a terrible blunder. The book has many of these kind of notes that give a tremendously vivid sense of the mental and psychological struggle. He transmits the true nature of top-flight chess, which is not just a question of reams and reams of variations, but also of the interplay between two human beings.

People say of Fischer that he was oblivious to other people’s feelings, but in the context of a game he’s clearly acutely aware of what’s going on in his opponent’s mind.

Fischer used to say, “I don’t believe in psychology, I believe in strong moves.” In a way that’s true, but when you’re at the board you can’t not be aware of it. Of course the variations are also very deep and detailed. It’s one of those books where you need two chess sets, one for the board, and a pocket set to follow the variations, because Fischer had astonishing powers of calculation. It’s not an easy book, at that level. It’s not a book you could give to a beginner.

Are any of these books useful for a beginner?

No. These are books that repay constant reading and rereading. You couldn’t say that about books for a beginner – once you’ve read them, you throw them away or give them to your child, or the child of a friend.

Let’s go on to Masters of the Chessboard by Richard Réti, who died in 1929. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2013 at 9:21 am

Posted in Books, Games

Tagged with

Why so few female chess grandmasters?

with 3 comments

Interesting question, but the answer is disappointing: the number of female grandmasters is quite good once you look at the number of female chess players. Not Exactly Rocket Science explains:

Three years ago, Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University, claimed that genetic differences between the sexes led to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end”. His widely derided led to his dismissal, but is views are by no means uncommon. In the same year, Paul Irwing and Richard Lynn conducted a review of existing studies on sex differences in intelligence and concluded:

“Different proportions of men and women with high IQs… may go some way to explaining the greater numbers of men achieving distinctions of various kinds for which a high IQ is required, such as chess grandmasters, Fields medallists for mathematics, Nobel prize winners and the like.”

Irwing’s opinion aside, there clearly is a lack of women in the areas he mentioned. In chess for example, there has never been a single female world champion and just 1% of Grand Masters are women. And as long as that’s the case, there will always be people who claim that this disparity is caused by some form of inferiority on the part of the underrepresented sex. Thankfully, there will also always be others to point out that those who hold such views are full of it.

Among them is Merim Bilalic from Oxford University. Himself a keen chess player, Bilalic smelled a rat in Irwing’s contention that men dominate the higher echelons of chess because of their innate ability. In an elegant new study, he has shown that the performance gap between male and female chess players is caused by nothing more than simple statistics…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 December 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tagged with

Chess thoughts

with 2 comments

Staunton design

A guy recently decided to take up chess, and asked for advice. I weighed in with my thoughts, which I thought I’d share here.

First, the set: wood is my preference, and nowadays I like red and natural pieces more than black and natural—YMMV. The traditional Staunton design, because other designs don’t wear well over time: they’re interesting at first, but as you play over the months and years, that initial appeal doesn’t hold up.

I particularly like the sets made by the House of Staunton, which manages to get the base just right: as if the wood had turned molten for an instant and settled in a graceful curve—click the thumbnail and look at the bases to see what I mean. They also make the queen’s crown very pointy.

A king height of 4.0″ turns out to be best, in my opinion: larger and the usual boards won’t fit; smaller, and the pieces lack sufficient heft.

Regarding books, my only recommendation is to start with algebraic rather than English notation—that is, look at the way games are recorded. If the first move is shown as, say 1. e2-e4 (or, more tersely, simply e4, since the pawn at e2 is the only piece that can move to e4), that’s good. What you don’t want, these days, is a book in which the first move looks like this: 1. P-K4. Reason: all chess books these days use algebraic notation. It won.

The book that was highly recommended for a beginner is Play Winning Chess, by Yasser Seirawan. Check the library.

Most chess players are men, which I believe is mostly a matter of social conditioning. There are some very strong women players, but women are scarce in chess clubs, and are sometimes made to feel out of place (or feel that way on their own). And one interpretation of the game is quite Oedipal: the goal being to kill the king. (Reuben Fine has an essay about this someplace.)

Another aspect of social conditioning is a taste for competition: generally speaking, boys are raised (by social mores) to be competitive, and girls are raised to be cooperative. I’m sure that plays in there as well. Alfie Kahn has a very interesting book titled No Contest: The Case Against Competition, which talks about competition vs. cooperation.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Games

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: