Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chess Software

This book is a MUST HAVE for Chessbase product users!!  The back cover says:

Even basic chess software packages now usually have numerous interesting features and working out how to use these effectively is no easy task. Many players simply use a
playing program to practice against and a database program just for storing and replaying games. Yet there is very much more that can be achieved with such packages and this book will show you how the experts do it.
…Learn powerful techniques for organizing and managing your chess data
…Discover proven, effective methods to study the middlegame and endgame
…Learn how to most effectively harness the power of a chess engine
…Analyze efficiently your own strengths and weaknesses
      Authored by Byron Jacobs, Jacob Aagaard and John Emms Jacobs, this book is packed with advice on how to study all facets of the game.  You will learn a LOT about how to manage databases and work more effectively studying openings.  Particularly useful is Chapter 3 where GM John Emms shows how to use a database of your own games to discover your strengths and weaknesses.
      Aagaard tells you how to use software for training and study an opening so that you will understand the ideas behind it. There is also a chapter devoted to endgame training, especially valuable is advice on how to use methods of endgame study that have been advocated by Mark Dvoretsky.
      Note that the programs and training methods are all based on ChessBase software so the book is really only good if you use Chessbase software. If you own any of their products then this book is a must.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Stonewall Attack by Andrew Soltis

      Soltis begins by stating, “The Stonewall is unique in the realm of chess openings. It is one of the simplest to play and yet it is one of the rarest to be found in tournament-at least on the master level.” And that was the trouble with a book on the Stonewall Attack that I once read by Al Horowitz. As often happens with these kinds of books, the authors only give games where your opponent obligingly falls in with your plans and the authors often ignore refutations and stronger lines in order to prove their point. This is not the case with Soltis.
      Like all of these ‘system openings’, claims to the contrary, you cannot avoid study. In the case of the Stonewall Attack you cannot play it by simply posting your pawns to c3, d4, e3, and f4 and then deploying your pieces in typical Stonewall fashion with Bd3, Nf3-e5, Nbd2, Qe2 or Qf3, O-O, etc. Instead, you have to be willing to play a system of interconnected lines that respond to what your opponent is doing.
      For example, against the King's Indian Defense set-up by Black where it will be difficult to prevent an eventual ...e5 break by Black, you should switch to a Zukertort line with b3 and Bb2, which has a similar goal to the Stonewall in controlling dark squares with the added feature that the dark squared Bishops typically get exchanged later to White's advantage.
      Against an early light-squared Bishop development by Black with 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Bf5, switch to a Queen's Gambit set-up with 3.c4 with the idea of pressuring the weakened light squares on Black's queenside.
      Against a premature...c5 advance by Black, play the position as a Reversed Queen's Gambit Accepted, holding onto the pawn via 1.d4 d5 2.e3 c5!? 3.c3 Nc6 4.dxc5! e6 5.b4 since White can so easily protect the dark squares.
      The Stonewall Attack is characterized by its spearhead of pawns on b2, c3 and d4, with the all-important support pawn, to prevent Black playing e5, on f4. In the accepted sequence of moves f4 may follow or even precede d4. The main objective of the Stonewall Attack is to set up a pawn barrier (the 'wall') on the long diagonal a1-h8 and to funnel every single piece towards a Black king which has castled kingside.
      The good news is that if Black doesn’t know the attacking potential inherent in this opening and just plays reasonable looking moves but ones which allow White to maximize the potential of his pieces, he can quickly fall victim to a smashing attack. Alas, that seems to rarely happen. That’s where preparation comes in.
      Now, when Black knows what’s coming and follows a different defensive plan you have to have options. You have to know which plan to follow, how to adapt a different strategy. In short, you must opt out of the Stonewall.
      In this book Soltis begins by discussing move order. After that he illustrates simple K-side attacks, discusses good vs. bad bishops, Q-side play (yes, sometimes you have to switch play to the other side of the board) and a couple of other ‘small’ details. He then devotes chapters to the Theoretically Best defense, the Traditional Defense and then tells you how to play against the fianchettoe of Black’s B to …g7.
      So, unless you are going to be playing Masters of GMs, the Stonewall Attack can be a dangerous weapon against amateurs if you understand all the nuances. Of course to do that will require putting in some effort and Soltis does a pretty good job giving you the tools.

Stonewall Legacy Series - Group of Videos on the Stonewall
Introduction- 6 min Video
Baltic Defense - 10 min Video
The Baltic Trap 4...Nc6! -5 min Video
Horowitz Defense - 10 min Video
Teichmann Defense - 11 min Video
Mainline with 5....Bd6 -11 min Video
Mainline with 6....Qc7 - 7 min Video
Bg4 Lines - 10 min Video

You may also want to consider:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mission: Checkmate! with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit by Eric Schiller

      The Blackmar–Diemer Gambit (1.d5 d5 2.e4) arose as a development of the earlier Blackmar Gambit, named afterArmand Balckmar, a relatively little-known New Orleans player of the late 19th century who popularized its characteristic moves (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.f3) and published analysis on it. The popularity of the original Blackmar Gambit was short-lived because it was basically unsound but in 1889 Ignatz von Popiel came up with the idea of 3.Nc3. The modern form of this gambit owes much to the German master Emil Diemer (1908–1990) when, after many years of analysis, wrote a book on it in the late 1950s, titled Vom Ersten Zug An Auf Matt! (Toward Mate From The First Move!).
      The gambit is considered an aggressive opening, but its soundness continues to be the subject of much debate both on and off the chessboard. It is dismissed by many masters but embraced enthusiastically by many amateurs. Of course, I tend to go with the judgment of masters and GMs, but what do I know? The gambit is rarely seen in top-level play but enjoys popularity among amateurs. There was even a time when it was often seen in correspondence play, but in these days of engines...never!
      Sam Collins (Understanding the Chess Openings) wrote, "Nobody who plays good chess plays this line, and nobody who plays good chess ever will." And IM Wndrew Martin said, "playing the Blackmar–Diemer Gambit is like shopping for a tombstone." I like that one! The late Ken Smith thought amateurs should play all kinds of gambits while GM Alex Yermolinsky discourages it, so the debate is never ending.
      In July, 2012, Shiller, writing on Chessdot com, said of this book: For the last few months I've been working on a new book on the Blackmar Diemer Gambit. This gambit is sort of a Rodney Dangerfield of chess openings, it just doesn't get any respect...The opening promises an exciting game with great attacking possibilities for white, even in the most reliable of defenses. In the past I have held a slightly negative view of the opening because I thought it could be handled rather easily ...white has good attacking possibilities and this view was confirmed recently in a new book by Scheerer."
      "I have not tried to cover all of the theory in great detail in my new book
. Instead, I have written it in the spirit of the early books on the gambit which stress White's ability to play for checkmate from the very first move. So what I have tried to do is show the possibilities of building a checkmate attack in each of the variations."       Shiller then makes a curious comment: "For detailed repertoire analysis and computer." I have no idea what this sentence fragment means and knowing Schiller's reputaion for publishing junk, I am not surprised by this sentence. But speaking of computers, I would recommend when examining lines of these weird, offbeat openings that you heavily analyze them with an engine and don't be afraid to make notes in the book or print out your engine analysis and insert it into the book! Authors of these kinds of books have been known to use games played by amateurs and not examine critical lines that might refute their ideas. Schiller goes on to say, "I refer you to any of the other excellent publications on the opening." Is he saying there are other, better books on the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit out there and you are advised to buy them too?!
Schiller notes that Black has a lot of possible defenses but, still, is not easy to defend against the Blackmar Diemer gambit since White will maintain the initiative for a long time. That said, with careful play Black is likely to survive, and if he plays flawlessly he might even wind up with an extra pawn for his efforts. This opening is flirting with danger because, as Schiller points out, "If you stumble as White, Black, will laugh all the way to the bank. If, however Black makes the first mistake he may not live to see his deposit clear." Shiller adds, "This is a book for chess players who love to play for checkmate from the very first move."and "is intended for amateur players who are trying to improve their attacking skills."
This book is NOT an encyclopedic treatment of variations nor does it have detailed notes. What it DOES have, and this is a good idea, is most games are fully given. It is ALWAYS a good idea to play over games all the way to the end...those opening books that stop at move 12 or 15 are not to be recommended. If you are in the camp that believes in playing gambits, the Blackmar is probably worth a try and this book, while not the best, is cheap enough that you can use it to get your feet wet and see if it's something you want to try.