Thursday, December 31, 2015

Big Database

     The Big Database 2016 contains more than 6.4 millions games from 1560 to 2015 with ChessBase opening classification with more than 100,000 key positions, direct access to players, tournaments, middlegame themes, endgames. The most recent games of the database are from the Middle of September 2015. 
     You need a large reference database if you’re going doing serious study or correspondence play.   Online databases are OK, but they can’t manipulate the data and making your own requires a lot of time and effort. 
     With BigBase allows you to access various keys for openings, endgames, strategic and tactical themes which is probably the best and most helpful feature.  And, playing over a lot of sample games with your favorite opening lines, endings or middlegame themes is one of the best ways to learn.  When you see similar positions in your own games, you will remember them.  Even if it's only a vague recollection, at least you have a starting point. Learning by example is one of the best ways of learning anything.  Seet his article on Observational Learning.
     Note though that BigBase does NOT include annotated games and you are not offered a year’s worth of weekly updates. Nor does it, like MegaBase, offer rating data and pictures for thousands of players. Personally, I do not think the price of MegaBase (around $135) is worth the extra cash outlay. BigBase 2016 is available for download or by mail.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Get a 2500 Rating!


     How did Jonathan Hawkins manage to go from being an average tournament player with a rating of around 1700 to a Grandmaster? He claims he did it by focusing his attention on the endgame and devising a number of building blocks and identified a number of important areas of study. 
     In this book he reveal the secrets of his success. The book consists of two parts. Part I (Thinking Techniques) and Part II (Principles and Essential Theory) are composed of positions and ideas that serve as the basic elements of endgame knowledge. In Part I he describes how strong players break down analysis into key positions and linked ideas...pattern recognition. For example, one of my favorite examples is what he calls Capablanca’s Pawn Ending. White to move:
     Most of us would probably begin calculating and would soon be swamped with a whole bunch of lines and still be unsure if white wins. Hawkins says we should be looking for ’building blocks’ and key positions. The Shredder Endgame Database confirms there's only one winning move here: 1.Kf2 wins in 32 moves against the best defense which, of course, is beyond our ability to actually calculate. According to the database other moves only draw. By the way, if it's black's move he can draw with either 1...Kf7 or 1...Kg7. 
     Obviously, you need some kind of guide for positions like this. Hawkins does a good job of showing how strong players use short plans to improve their positions little by little to secure the win. 
     In Part II he shows us how the thinking techniques he describes in Part I work in simple positions. He looks at R vs. P vs R, R&P vs. B&P and other B endings. He also has an outstanding lesson on understanding how (and why) the Philidor and Lucena positions work. Parts I and II give the basics. 
     He gets down to business in the second half which is where he begins showing us the analytical work that resulted in his great success. He also throws in lessons on the middlegame. Then he examines R endings with 3P's vs. 4P's. Hawkins' book also teaches us another important thing...HOW to do the work that leads to improvement. Basically, he advises that improvement will come in small spurts as basic knowledge grows and one learns how to analyze. That was an interesting insight. GM Alex Yeromlinsky has also discussed how he made great strides in his chess development when he finally earned how to do independent analysis. I wish I had this book back in the 1970s!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Buy Old Classics...Not new!!

A while back I made a post on my Blog titled An Unscientific Observation where I said that despite the glut of chess material that's available to us today, usually at high prices, we average players have not gotten much better. So, instead of paying $25-30 for a “modern” chess book or even more for training DVDs, one might as well buy reprints of old chess books on Amazon for a fraction of the price; they'll give the same results. A reader observed it's true in other areas, too. He mentioned golf where modern pros have improved, but despite modern training methods and videos, and despite the fact that we can all by the same great equipment the pros play, the scores turned in by the average weekend golfer haven’t improved in nearly a half-century. So, here's my recommendations for a few good, OLD books covering all areas.

The Game of Chess (Dover Chess) - Tarrasch. This book taught several generations how to play.
Guide to Good Chess (C.J.S. Purdy Gold Chess Series) - Purdy. ANYTHING written by Purdy is both fun to read AND instructional. He was one of the greatest writer EVER.
The Search for Chess Perfection (Purdy Series) - Purdy. A bio, collection of his games and...what makes it worth buying: a collection of his magazine articles on all aspects of chess. 

How to Play the Chess Openings (Dover Chess)- Znosko-Borovsky. Focuses on ideas and planning rather than memorization. He explains how to avoid amateur mistakes and traps.
Action Chess: Purdy's 24 Hours Opening Repertoire - Purdy. Deals with learning a basic opening repertoire quickly.

The Middlegame in Chess - Fine. Algebraic notation. Explains the  basic elements of combinations and attacks against the King. How to evaluate a position, handle superior, equal, and inferior positions, the significance of pawn structure and space, transition from opening to middlegame and middlegame to endgame.
Pawn Power in Chess (Dover Chess) - Kmoch. One you get past his weird names for different formations and maneuvers, this book offer some great instruction on strategy.
Modern Chess Strategy - by Pachman. Explains the characteristics of the pieces, exchanges, seven different uses of pawns, minority attack, dynamic elements, much more. 129 games and fragments are used as examples.
The Middle Game in Chess (Dover Chess) - by Znosko-Borovsky. Z-B teaches about Space, Time and Force.

The Art of Checkmate - by Renaud and Kahn. A classic. 23 mating situations are classified and described with example.

Basic Chess Endings - by Fine. Benko has revised this with the latest innovations in the endgame and adapted the book to algebraic notation. Very precise and technical with no frills or wasted words. A classic.

Reshevsky's Best Games of Chess - by Reshevsky. I believe Reinfeld was the real author of this book which contains 110 games prior to 1948. Very instructive and entertaining.
500 Master Games of Chess (Dover Chess) - by Tartakower and du Mont. Games arranged by opening.
Botvinnik: One Hundred Selected Games - by Botvinnik. 100 games played before becoming World Champion in 1948. Includes opponents like Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, Smyslov. Explains his theories, the development of Russian chess, and six end game studies. Superb.
Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 (Dover Chess) by Bronstein.  Personally I prefer the book written by Najdorf, but whichever one you get, they are both instructive and it's fun just to watch the greatest players of that era slug it out. 
107 Great Chess Battles, 1939-1945 (Dover Books on Chess) - by Alekhine, Translated and edited by William Winter this book of games from 1939 to 1945 is not as great as the other two classics, but those two volumes are pricey.   
My Best Games of Chess: 1905/1954 (Two Volumes Bound As One)-  by Tartakower. I don't often use the word "delightful" but can't think of a better description.  210 games, annotated with brilliant wit, humor, and insight.  A great book. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Free Roman's Lab DVD

     The United States Chess federation is offering a free DVD for download: Roman's Lab: Russian School of Chess, vol. 62, part 1.  You do not have to be a USCF member.
     You have to supply them with your e-mail address then confirm it. Then subscribe. My first attempt got me a message that “there are too many attempts for this e-mail address. Please try again in about 5 minutes.” A few minutes later I downloaded the DVD with no problem.  Also, what are you “subscribing” to? Exclusive savings for USCF Sales Subscribers-Receive exclusive coupon codes in your inbox! Of course it's a trick to get your e-mail so they can send you offers, but I don't a life member, I already get them anyway.
     After that, you will receive an e-mail link in your inbox. After going to your inbox you have to click on “Please confirm subscription below to claim your free eDVD!” You will them be sent to the USCF site and awaiting for you there is a $5 off coupon on your next USCF order, but you are warned you have to act fast - the coupon expires in 7 days. After jumping through all those hoops there's a button to click on that downloads your zipped DVD.
     The DVD, which sold for $20, is over an hour long and “In this DVD, the first of GM Roman Dzindzichashvili's Russian School of Chess collection, Roman provides you with step-by-step instruction on how to develop your pieces for the best future activity and coordination.”    LINK