Art imitates life. We all know this, especially if you are creative in any way. You’ll experience something, be it a cascading waterfall silhouetted by a sunset or two dogs chasing a ball and their owner’s attention, and you’ll be inspired to take action. Maybe you sketch an image or write a poem or construct a story. However you do it, the process is the same: experience something, get inspired, create something.
The same is true in reverse. Life imitates art. You see a painting, watch a movie, read a poem and something clicks. You get a fresh new perspective. Maybe you get inspired enough to take action, to do things different, or maybe you just sit back and think new, deeper thoughts. In either case, the very way you see reality has changed. Shift your perceptions and what you perceive shifts as well.
I find this interesting, as I’m a chess player. Chess is a game, but it has artistic qualities. Moreover, it’s a thinking game. It’s a direct portal into your own mind. If art imitates life, then chess definitely imitates life as well.
This is my best chess game; it is my worst chess game. It features beautiful tactics; it features devastating blunders. It’s a positional masterpiece; it’s a positional clusterbomb. I won this game; I lost this game. It shows how close I am to chess masterhood; it shows how far I still need to go.
This following chess game is probably the most important one I’ve ever played in terms of my own chess development. If I ever get a chance to write a book of my own games, this will be number one. It is my whole chess persona in a nutshell.
I’ve written about this game before: here and here and here. I’ve never analyzed it. I’ve been afraid, afraid that I really did play 20 perfect moves and then threw it all away in one moment of … I don’t even know what to call it. Overconfidence? Blindness? Stupidity? A subconscious tendency towards self-destruction?
This game was played back in April. My opponent was a Fide Master with an official OTB rating of 2300. I have an online rating of 2000. I should have been destroyed … and instead I played the game of my life, in every way possible. Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
If you play 1…e5 as Black, you need to have something ready against the King’s Gambit. All the Ruy Lopez or Berlin Wall knowledge you have will do you diddly if White starts with blood in his eyes on move two.
Most people are content to play some 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 exf4, which is certainly a sound way to go about. At the same time, it’s exactly the type of position White wants, and he likely has much more experience in it than you do. That’s not exactly how you punish White for his opening daring.
Instead, I have a pet defence based on the cheeky 2…Qh4+. The following game shows it in action. I wouldn’t claim it’s better than any other defence to the King’s Gambit, but it DOES pull the game into a decidedly positional direction, and White almost certainly has less experience than I do. Take a look. Continue reading →
First, let me celebrate. I recently reached the 2100 rating mark … and then immediately lost a game to fall below it … then had a few draws … then I won and now I’m back over 2100! It’s by exactly one point, but I’ll take it.
Just a few years ago, I had been stuck at 1800 most of my life. To have my rating now over 2000, let alone over 2100, is like a dream come true.
When I broke the 2000 barrier for the first time last year, I wrote a post examining exactly how I did it. That is, I looked at every single victory and classified it by type. For instance, sometimes I won by a mating attack, sometimes by an endgame advantage, and sometimes my opponents just hung material and I took it. It was a good experience, and quite eye-opening. I learned a lot about myself…
… and then I wondered, if this were so useful only looking at one year’s worth of games, how much more insight would I get from looking at ALL my games? The thought never left my head, and after nearly three months of work, I present to you my findings. It’s pretty awesome. Continue reading →
If you look at chess literature, you can find entire libraries devoted to the art of attack … and almost nothing on the art of defence. Defending is much harder than attacking. Often a defender only had one move to save the position, whereas the attacker can just throw pieces at the King and hope for the best.
I believe defence is at least twice as hard as attacking, if not more. It is probably my weakest link, but I’ve still won a few games with accurate defence. In general, the opponent will overreach himself, usually with an incorrect sacrifice, and then an accurate series of moves proves my advantage.
In what follows, I present three games in which I refute my opponent’s aggressive overtures. Again, I’m not Petrosian, so my defending skills aren’t 100%, but they do the job for my level. Continue reading →
As we grow as chess players, our style evolves. This happens naturally as our positional judgement deepens. We gain a better understanding of when and how to attack, of where it makes sense and where we are just using wishful thinking.
For most of my chess development, I’ve been an aggressive player. I started with 1.e4 and 2.Qh5 in more games than I care to admit. The King’s Gambit played a large role in my opening repertoire. My entire chess strategy was 1. Develop pieces, and 2. Throw pieces at the enemy King. Crude, but if your opponent makes one mistake you win in 18 moves, so that’s pretty nice.
Along the way, though, I gained a much stronger positional grasp of the game, and this greatly curtailed my attacking tendencies. When I did attack, they were usually because the position demanded it, not because I felt like it. Here are some examples of my game maturing over the years. Continue reading →
Here’s my chess confession: growing up, I never knew what to play as Black against 1.d4. Nothing seemed to work. QGD and Slav positions always ended up passive; Nimzo positions ended up simply lost. I asked around, and apparently the King’s Indian was the best chance to attack as Black. I tried that … and lost about 80% of my games. I clearly was not a KID player.
To be fair, I didn’t study much if any theory before playing these openings. I just looked at a few games and then tried it out myself. With 1.e4 openings, that seemed fine. I had an intuitive sense of what to do. The 1.d4 openings, though, left me completely in the dark … until I found the Dutch defence.
1…f5 gave me renewed hope. For the first time, I was not just winning, but winning easily and in style. This gave me confidence. I would later give up the Dutch after several painful losses, but not before it gave me some memorable wins. Let’s look at some. Continue reading →
Every chess beginner knows the importance of castling. If you leave your King in the centre, it remains in danger. By castling you move it to the side of the board, away from danger and, usually, surrounded by defenders. The castled position is undoubtedly the best place for the King in the opening and middlegame.
This section deals with some ways to beat the castled King, taken from my own games. Though the games are from three different openings and very different positions, they all follow the same recipe for success. I’ll explain it briefly here and go in depth during the games. Continue reading →
‘Attack’ can mean many different things in chess. Some people immediately imagine sacrifices and unbelievable tactics. Others think of opposite-side castling and pawnstorms, like the Sicilian Dragon. Some people might even think about weak pawns and attacking them to win an endgame.
Those people are weird.
For me, when I think of an attack, I immediately picture the attack against an uncastled King. That is my favourite, bar none. There’s something magical, even romantic, about mating the uncastled King. I mean, we all know we should castle, yet sometimes we don’t, and those are the exact times that I relish the most. Continue reading →
Sometimes chess games get messy. Instead of calm logic the board is set aflame in chaos, and you can’t tell heads from tails. You have no idea what the heck is going on. There are so many hanging pieces and potential tactics that only a computer can calculate it all. All you can do is keep your head above the water and try to out-steer your opponent in the tactical mayhem.
In general, such games fall under two types. First, both sides attack the enemy King. This is especially common in opposite-side castling, like the Sicilian Dragon. Very complicated. Second, there can be a sacrifice for unclear compensation. Giving up a pawn or a piece for attack is the prime example.