Miniature #1: Don’t Move the Same Piece Twice

Here we go.  SmithyQ presents YouTube video number two!

This one may become a regular series.  I adore chess miniatures.  These are games under 25 moves, usually finishing with a crushing attack or fancy tactics.  In order to lose in under 25 moves, one side has to make some decisive mistakes.  Studying miniatures teaches us both to recognize when these mistakes happen and how to punish them most effectively.  Your opening and early middlegame attacking skills will increase tremendously after even just a few games.

Also, miniatures are a heck of a lot of fun, so let’s take a look. Continue reading

Smithy’s First Ever YouTube Video!

Alright everyone, time for something brand new and exciting!  I have created my first chess YouTube video!

I’ve been toying with this idea for over a year, ever since I helped a friend create a few video, and I learned some of the ins and outs of the process.  Over the last few months, I’ve created several private videos for people, and I’ve used their feedback to mould the presentation, content and delivery.  The end result is what you see here.  Special thanks to Martin, Steve and Alex for giving particularly detailed feedback.  Much appreciated.

For my first video, I chose to help the most active reader of my blog, Gringo.  I offered to analyze a game of his, and he gave me a very interesting encounter against a National Master with a barely believable 2600 bullet rating.  This wasn’t a bullet game, but Gringo was clearly the underdog … and yet he had reached a very good position.  Let’s take a look.

Continue reading

I’m Finally Back (or, alternate title, Nothing is worse than Moving)

The Good News, I finally finished moving. The Bad News, I got jerked around by my Internet company, I got jerked around by the moving company, two separate boxes exploded during the move, my dresser didn’t survive, my living room looks like a Jenga game writ large, and fought through the above while having the busiest week at work ever, all while my boss and supervisor were away on vacation, leaving me to fend for myself.

But again, the Good News: I’m finished moving! Or that’s what I tell myself at least. If I ever have to move again, I think I’ll just light everything I own on fire. I think that’ll be easier.

Image result for moving truck on fire

Less painful than actually moving.

Continue reading

A Quick Update

I know, I know, I haven’t updated my blog in a month.  I apologize.  In my defence, my life has been as busy as it has ever been.

On June 9th, so last Friday, I officially became a 4th-degree blackbelt in shoriniji-ryu karate.  That’s just under 20 years of practice, which culminated in a six-hour grading the weekend before and then a public ceremony and show the week after.  I had been training for this moment for months, and all my extra time went to this.

All month, I am in the process of moving.  I am leaving my basement apartment in a century-old home and entering a proper dwelling.  That is awesome! … except it involves moving, which may be the worst thing ever.  I can’t tell which is worse: packing all my things into boxes (and in the process realizing how much crap I have) or unpacking all my things from said boxes.  Joy. Anyway, when I wasn’t training for my blackbelt test, I was packing.

At work, my responsibilities have increased … at both jobs.  I have been a law clerk for half a year now, and I am given more and more to do.  This is fine, but it is added pressure and added training, ontop of the continual steep learning curve inherent in the position.  At my other job, as martial arts instructor, I’m technically phasing out, but in the process I need to train my replacements.  No one is expected to replace a 4th-degree blackbelt, but all the same I need to pass on as much knowledge and information as I can so the new instructors aren’t just left hanging.

On any given day, I leave my house at 8am and get back after 8pm.  I’m averaging a 60-hour work week, and when I’m not working I’m training or packing or trying to find time to sleep.  I won’t lie, I’m exhausted, and this blog was the easiest thing to cut.  Once July rolls around I’ll have a much more manageable schedule, with all the above over or concluded, and my chess analysis will resume its normal schedule.

Free Lessons from Smirnov: How To Analyze Your Games

I would like to share the following, a free series of videos roughly 30min long from GM Igor Smirnov, where he explains how to analyze your games.  The approach he recommends is basically the same as the one I use, though he has one interesting twist which I don’t use often, and one I will definitely think about.  It’s free, it’s great, it’s Smirnov, take a look.

There’s also a personal reason I’m recommending it.  You see, Smirnov spends a few minutes analyzing a position from one of my games.  Not just any game, either, but my most important game.  Take a look. Continue reading

Game 22: Mortsdnil-SmithyQ: An Equal Colle Endgame

Let me start by echoing a popular sentiment: I dislike playing Black against the Colle and London setups.  You know what I’m talking about: some White players play the exact same set-up every single game, getting a fairly dry, sterile position.  You know, a snoozefest.

In particular, I dislike when I get ‘tricked’ into playing d5 against said lines.  White has a normal, weakness free position, and if he doesn’t do anything silly the position will remain even, the pawn structure symmetrical and very little winning chances for the second player.  I can be against a much lower-rated player and find it hard to win just because White’s position is so solid and his play so unambitious.  I can play very well and yet never have more than a draw, and that feels like it happens far too often.

This game is a good example.  Most of the game I play very well.  I’m better out of the opening, I’m better as Queens come off and I’m better in the endgame.  The entire time, though, I have only slight winning chances, and in the end, when I might have won after my opponent slipped up, I made one imprecise move and lost all winning chances.

This is clearly the opening’s fault.  Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Game 21: Gavacho Iberico-SmithyQ: Simplifying When Up Material

In most GM games, if one side loses a piece, he then resigns.  In most tactical puzzles, if you win a piece the puzzle ends.  In a real game, though, your opponent might play on.  That’s perfectly in his or her right, and that can lead to some practical difficulties.

I have seen many amateurs, myself included, struggle when up material, even a whole piece.  Somehow, even though you know you should be winning, it doesn’t feel that way.  Things aren’t so simple.  If you know the general strategy of simplifying into the ending, though, then things can become very simple.

That’s what happened in today’s game.  I won a piece very early on, and then spent the rest of the game single-mindedly focused on the endgame.  In the end, it was a pretty easy win.  Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Game 20: SmithyQ-Zicfun33: Opening Principles

In some ways, the game today is fairly simple.  It’s ten moves and Black hangs a piece.  GG.

This is true, but it isn’t the whole story.  Black didn’t hang his piece randomly.  He had a plan, and his first few moves were standard, and he played a standard central break.  Things seemed fine on the surface, but if you look deeper, Black’s position was actually terrible.  Why?  Because Black didn’t follow opening principles.  He moves a piece twice in the opening, and though it looked harmless, it basically brought him swift defeat.

Let’s take a look at how deep opening principles can take us. Continue reading

Game 19: ThorniMarv-SmithyQ: How to Throw a Game

I’m not going to lie, this game was painful.

For 25 moves, I played near perfect.  I had a good position, then a better position, and then the tactics worked and I had a winning position.  Then I had a less winning position, then merely a drawn position … and then I managed to lose a King and Pawn endgame despite being up a pawn.  It’s pretty incredible, really.  Seriously, how do you lose this?

Well, let’s take a look. Continue reading

Updates and Broken Site

Wonderful, just wonderful.  Wordpress has apparently done another update, and now it no longer displays any of my chess games.  At all.  I’ve spent the last hour trying to tweak things, but no dice.

This hasn’t been the greatest week for me, and now this.  I’ll try to fix things, but if I have to redo every single post … yeah, I don’t know.