Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Say of the Jackal

 "I absolve you all; for I am the patron saint of mediocrity." - based on the film script: 'Amadeus'.

A change of logo this month as I begin to widen the blog's content. 
These changes have in fact been forced upon me - due to the exponential explosion in the number of blog followers to... well.. three. But it's the quality that counts; right?

The introduction of the jackal-headed deity, Anubis - the God of the Dead - is entirely coincidental with this time of  year - Halloween - this also being associated with a time of transition between life and death in Celtic traditions.

Yes - it's a time for changes: I've also adopted a new method of presenting the games using resources to be found at the Caissa website. Have a look at the nifty viewer below. I've even managed to customize and colour-co-ordinate it - boys and their toys.
If you click a specific game link then a 'pop-up' viewer will now magically appear. You can then scroll through the masterpiece till your heart's content. 

On the test page "viewer", I've posted the first four games of the tough 10-game Traxler test match which I'm playing at the moment. 
But if you find the Traxler Variations just a little too scary, then you can also use the viewer to import any pgn game you wish. I'll get round to putting it on some other pages too. Don't thank me: It's all part of my getting to grips with html or whatever it's called. 

A time of change can also be a time of sadness: On a personal note - and at the risk of pouring out my heart on the internet - this month also sees me part company with an old 'friend'. Let's just say we've played a few games of chess together in our time; you know where I'm coming from.

But how do you break up with someone when the time comes to 'move on'? Singer/songwriter, Paul Simon, advises that there must be 'Fifty ways to leave your lover': Is there really any easy way? I doubt it. 
Look - I don't want to start an 'Agony Aunt' type column here and, personally speaking; I don't  believe there is any way to stop the other party feeling abandoned, rejected or as having been 'used'. 
My advice may sound a bit harsh and hard-hearted I admit - but I say - "Get over it". Of course, I'm not suggesting  you use that exact form of words. Try to soften the blow a little....

"It’s not you – it’s me.

I'm truly am sorry it’s over; I really am. But we had some fun; didn’t we? Therefore, let’s not recriminate about different endings but instead, just remember the good times.

Recall how we met in that book store? You - a slim young thing dressed to kill – and I – just another ‘player’ looking for something new, different and exciting. Well I sure found it in you.
Oh the parties we had: Remember the ones at that “Eff-7” place? Such decadence. I hear it’s still very much a popular haunt. 
You know; I never mentioned it before now but, many times, I heard them whisper of us; ‘Here they comes again; him and that Danish ‘gambit’ of his. 
A little disdainful and two-faced perhaps for, in truth, they couldn’t get enough of us and took everything on offer. But we really slew them.
 Let's face it, there was never anything conservative in our manner; it was all in the ‘here and now’ with us. We took our chances and some risks too; never counting the cost or caring for what the future held. I don't think either of us even knew the meaning of the word 'prophylaxis'- never mind its spelling. You were bold and I was brash. We played hard and fast - but it this was all part of the games we liked to play.  

But you know – time catches up with all of us and I am older now. I really cannot do this anymore. A man of my age needs to slow down a little and consider his position a little bit more carefully. It’s just a question of …

No; please don’t put words in my mouth – I wasn’t going to say “sophistication”. Please don’t feel spurned: No one appreciates you more or knows you better than I do.  

Nor is there ‘someone else’: That Spaniard you’ve seen me with: I’ve actually known her for quite some time and it’s purely business, I assure you. I’m not looking for an ‘opening’ there as you put it. In fact she’s quite a torture when you get to know her – or so they say. I wouldn’t know. She's from a well-known family but it is only her body of work that interests me.
Look: I know it’s sad, after all this time - but I’ll always hold you in highest of esteem. You’ll be better off without me now - I'm only thinking of you. No doubt, our paths will cross again. I’ll smile when someone introduces you and, of course, feign unfamiliarity - so that only you and I will know differently.

Just promise me that you’ll never change – and I’ll promise never to forget: How could I: I’d recognize you anywhere: Your lines; your looks, that disarming openness of intent and ‘devil-may-care’ attitude that once was ‘us’. Such images will always stay with me – right here - next to my heart.

Auf Wiedersehen, Miss Goring - my 'Danish Gambit': 'Au revoir.

Featured Game:

Slay of the Jackal?
No sooner had I received last month's Jackal Attack game from Amsterdam - than in floods another: Both  were defended by my correspondent at the Dutch club, Caissa, Rob Witt. Now, Rob knows a thing or two about this opening; as do a few others at his club. If you check last month's excellent game you'll see he was somewhat unlucky to lose that one. However,this time, he made no mistake after a slip-up by his opponent in the opening when White omitted an important move. 
A still earlier game between between Christophe and Witt was also an eventful struggle in exactly the same line. On that occasion Black did not so much emerge from the opening, as survived it. All the more surprising then that White did not repeat the same line. 
Rob's annotations are always very good and he sets the scene well: How many times have I experienced the same dilemma - about to embark on what can be   expected to be something like a thirty-six move game - but not even sure what my first move should be.
Christophe, Nirav-Witt, Rob

Letters from the home front.

It's been relatively quiet on the front lines this month - that's my way of saying that I've lost a game. 
The position in the 'pop-up' below is taken from Game 4 in the Traxler match. It is evenly balanced at present at 2-2: Two draws and a win for either side. The fifth game is well under way. 
The whole of the fourth game turned out to be very interesting and [as my opponent pointed out to me], the only time the opening position had been reached before was on the 10th move of Anand - Beliavsky: Linares 1991. 
I'm not sure if Beliavsky would be overly impressed with my attempt to improve on his own continuation - but at least it made for an eventful contest.
The entire game can be played through on the 'viewer' page. It was very close to being a draw - so much so that the Gameknot computer evaluates it as having been level - just a couple of moves before resignation. One should always take computer evaluations with a pinch of salt.
White defended very well after coming under a strong middle-game attack and the difference between a draw and a loss was a matter of a hair's breadth. I felt sure my a-pawn would at least be worth a draw; but no, not quite. 
It may seem that I resigned a little early - but this is not the case: If one plays on through the possible ending [in the link below] then it will be seen that - although Black has no difficulty winning back a piece - this factor alone is just not enough. The white h-pawn must also be captured. 
The trouble is that, by the time this happens, the enemy rook has time to attack Black's remaining pawns. The white king also has time to return to the centre. After that, the bishop will prove to be no match for the rook in any ending. Close - but not close enough. Resignation was in fact the strongest move.

Two queens - too many.. 
I don't like to make a habit of giving up a queen in a game; they come in useful. Recently however I've given up two by choice. The games in question are still on-going so I will make no comments. Nevertheless, both positions are interesting and can be found here and here.


Test Your Tactics solutions:

Summary. The 'Solutions' page gives the specific details.

 T-Y-T [Level 1]

Position      Key move          Minor 1           Minor 2

1               Rxd7!                Qd5                Qb4
2               Nxb4                 e3                   Rb1 
3               Rg3+                 Qh3+              Bg4+
4               b5                     [Qb8 or Qd7]     ...

T-Y-T [Level 2]

Position      Key move          Minor 1           Minor 2

 1               Bxg6                Bxg5               Nxc4
 2               f5                    [Rf8 or Rh6]     ...
 3               Nxe4                [Kh7                Kf7
 4               Bg5!                 Qc1                Qe2

Next month's featured open game will be one played by Fischer which also appears in 'Sixty memorable games'.

I will also be beginning the first in a series of articles on how to become a seriously mediocre player - without tears. The series will begin with the letter 'A'.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Say of the Jackal

 "I absolve you all - for I am the patron saint of mediocrity." - Based on the film script:, 'Amadeus'.

So. What a good chess month I've had in terms of the open games - my personal favourites.
Back at the tail-end of August I went to France; as I often do. However, on this particular occasion I lost my internet connection for a couple of days. Now, I know that I make it sound like I'd suddenly become a modern-day Robinson Crusoe. You might also be tempted to ask if things have  got so bad that one cannot do without the internet these days.
But in chess terms; this was a disaster: Horror upon horrors - by the time I got 'hooked-up' again, I found that I'd lost  a whole batch of on-line games; a result of exceeding the time control.
I could have lost ever more except that, luckily, when reconnected, there were still three games which hadn't yet expired - though one was just minutes away from doing so.
I wouldn't have minded so much except that some of the games were clearly winning and one was just a handful of moves away from mate. Unfortunately, this may only serve to underline the old adage - that no one ever won a game by resigning - an excuse often used for playing on in a lost position. It nevertheless turned out to be true for some of my opponents on this occasion. 

The fiasco cost me around 60-70 rating points; but was my own fault of course. However, I've since dried my eyes and  recouped my losses.

 More importantly, some of the new games have been particularly interesting. Take the one given below in 'Home Letters'. It's a Traxler; what more needs to be said in terms of 'open' games. They don't come more open than than the ideas generated by the Czech player, problem composer and priest, Karel Traxler. 
Don't let the saintly image fool you - this man was an absolute demon at the chess board: Check out his games.
Despite all the high-powered software currently available, this opening - one of the most complex of all openings - is still very well worth playing; and more-so if you specialize and use it in regular tournaments. Many of the Traxler's lines remain unclear. 

The game quoted in 'Home Letters' is one of three in the  Traxler against an opponent who is, fittingly enough, also a Czech - or at least from that neck of the woods. I predict an overall 50/50 split in the results.
Our first was a rated game which was a draw in one of the Traxler's main lines which has been closely examined over the years. However, my sporting opponent deliberately chose a more risky line for White in this second [un-rated] game. 
I've tried searching out the variation on a couple of sites dedicated to the opening - but so far without luck. I suspect that such a previous game must exist - so if you know of a prior game played with the line then please email me.
Our third game is rated and is still on-going; but this time with the Bxf7+ and Bd5 line.

Featured game: 

This month's featured Jackal game is another played at the Dutch chess club, Caissa. My thanks to Rob Witt for the game and his notes - particularly in view of the fact that he lost - the result of a terrible blunder in a still extremely unclear position. The game turns out to be quite important to the line in question: Have I found a TN on White's 16th move in this line? click here to play through the game.
White to play in this position from the game.

Test your Tactics

I've posted October's Level 1 and level 2 test positions..
September's T-Y-T answers are summarized below while the explanations can be found on the solutions page. Note that there is a double solution to position 3 in the level 2 version. This affects how the candidate moves are scored.

               Test Your Tactics solutions:

          T-Y-T [Level 1]

Position      Key move          Minor 1         Minor 2

    1               Qd5!              Bxf7+             O-O
     2               Nd5               Rg1                Bh3 
    3               Qxf7+            Bb5+              Bd3
  4               Bg5                Be3                f3
T-Y-T [Level 2]

Position      Key move          Minor 1         Minor 2

 1               Rxg6!              Nf7              f5
  2               Rb1+               Nc4+           h3 
   3               b4                  [Kg2 or Kh1]   ---
   4               Bg5!                Qc1             Qe2

Home letters from the front lines:

This is one of the Traxler games mentioned above. Black is about to make his 16th move.
In the final position [below]- irrespective of how the piece is recaptured - Black can get his pawn to the seventh rank supported by his king. With the White king cut off, the position is, in effect, two pieces and a pawn against a single rook. Black will win any resulting king and pawn endings. The game is given here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Say of the Jackal

I've recently come across the website sparkchess.com. There, you can play against an engine without having to download anything, sign anything or buy anything.
It sports four levels of play; 'Beginner'; 'Casual'; 'Advanced' or 'Guru'.
The site warns that the guru level can be a bit slow, so, as I was looking for something a bit faster anyway, I opted for the Advanced level.

As a rough guess I'd put its standard of play at between 1500 and 1700 at its second highest level which, alongside its two lower levels, makes it a pretty handy resource for those who are either quite new to the game or who are much more experienced - but still improving. 
I played only one game against the engine at sparkchess - so my estimate of its rating at the 'advanced' level is, I would have to admit, somewhat arbitrary. As the game was a Jackal Attack line I've included it here.

Well, I have to say that I'm impressed with Gameknot: I have tried other websites for playing competitive on-line games; but Gameknot win hands down. 
The site has really improved this last few years and, more recently, they have adding still more useful features. Not least amongst these is a resource for doing both static diagrams and 'play-through' games. They have a few tweaks still to do with the sizes of boards and so on - but the site has a very nice 'feel' to it. The position to the left is an example of one of the static diagrams and is based upon the above game. It is white to move. There are two particularly good options.

        One of the latest innovations at Gameknot is their 'tactical training' resource. At a minimum, you can get to attempt to solve 10 positions based [as far as I can see] on real games. I've only come across one exception so far.
       What is really good about the way it's done is that - not only are the positions graded - but you can pre-define the level of difficulty of the combinations you will be presented with using an upper an lower grading limit. As an example; you might select positions that fall in the range between 100 points below and 200 points above your current rating.
 The scoring system is also well thought out: In many real game positions there is often more that one good move available - and this frequently applies to winning  positions as well. One move maybe a bit more efficient than another and, in such instances, the secondary move usually shares the same theme - albeit that the resulting win takes a little longer.
     It is therefore a good idea to account for this in any scoring system - so that the selection of the second best move also gets some recognition..This is what Gameknot have done. 
In much the same way - if you have managed to visualize the theme of the combination and correctly rattle off, say, the first three moves - but then carelessly miss the last move - then you are still credited with part of the available score .It really is a very well-thought-out system. 
The same idea is integral to the T-Y-T problems presented here. However, this is by necessity: The puzzles aim to mimic the kind of thinking process in real chess positions where a player identifies candidate moves and then selects what is perceived to be the best available.

Featured Game: 

Here is a position from this month's featured game: White to play - but what is his best move? The answer can be found in the play-through.

Click on the game: jackdaw1 v riwulof

T-Y-T (test your tactics)

In a fit of unprovoked nastiness, I have decided not to supply the solutions and explanations to each month's T-Y-T positions until the following blog. Nevertheless, if you really can't sleep at night without knowing how you got on - then you can email me. It would be useful to know your actual rating [so that I can grade the difficulty of the sets] - but this is not essential. My email address is on the Jackal Attack website.

Home letters from the front lines:

I've just started a game with the Cochrane Gambit. The opening is one where White meets the Petroff with an early knight sacrifice for two pawns. I'm looking forward to the game: I've never lost with the gambit. Now, I know I really shouldn't have said that....

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Say of the Jackal

The blog takes an occasional sample game and examine it in some detail in relation to the current analysis described in the Jackal Attack e-book.

As the opening tends to have a high tactical content, it is hoped that the games and positions discussed may be of general interest.

The Jackal Attack website can be accessed here and there are related articles to be found on the web; for example here and here .
 The latest [March 2010] update of the Jackal e-book represents the most current analysis and evaluations. The e-book is updated twice a year.

Further and more diverse content will be added to the blog in due course. Particular games [famous or otherwise] will be analysed. There will also be essays on  aspects of the game that have to do with position evaluation and move choice - but using linguistic cues rather than calculation. 
Why not try the four 'Test your Tactics' [T-Y-T] positions on one of the blog's links. There are two separate sets: If you can understand the system of scoring  then you should do well on the tests.

This month's Featured Game

A fine and interesting game played at the cutting edge of one of the Jackal's main lines.

Christophe. Nirav [2150] - Witt. Rob [2250]  NED: Internal club League: 2008

Here's the story - and thanks to the players for their notes.

White, a hundred  points adrift of his opponent but nevertheless armed with inside knowledge [and a stiff drink at the bar], goes straight to the recommended 12th move - long since considered to be the most aggressive and dangerous in this particular variation.
A question then arises as to whether Black should play 12...O-O when the opportunity presents itself. But he knows that this and other alternatives had already been examined in the e-book. Consequently, and maybe fearing a prepared line from the club specialist, Black, himself no stranger to the Jackal from an earlier game with the same opponent, chooses a different path. It is a risky improvisation.
The White rook's swing to the king-side comes as no surprise: But after a tactical oversight, Black suddenly finds himself in a lost position stemming from his earlier 12...h6 pawn kick.
But salvation is unexpectedly at hand: Within sight of victory, a slip-up in the prosecution of the attack takes the game into a new phase. 
White now finds himself a pawn down; but at least in possession of a passed h-pawn and a more active king. Stinging from his earlier miss, he nevertheless plays very actively and no further major favours are granted.
 Carried by the game's momentum, both turn down draws by repetition and the resulting endgame battle touches just about every sector of the board. 
One facet is a very dangerous initiative which became possible for White on his 49th move. The winning attempt involved the idea of a king and two-minor piece mate stemming from a final pawn sacrifice - rejected after this cute tactical feature was overlooked. 
But it seems that all roads were in fact destined to lead to a draw in the end - and probably a fair result overall. In this see-saw tactical scrap, White finally emerges with an extra pawn in place of his earlier deficit but, by now, there was no win.

So, back to the bar for the post-mortem. There is always time for some club politics after the game: Yes, Black will defend the line again next year; if the chance returns. However, he helpfully volunteers the names of some other club mates who might first take up the challenge to explore that thorny 12...O-O line avoided at the outset. Good idea.

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