Monthly Archives: Aug 2018

Return To Hotel Anibal

After exactly 16 and a half years I stepped back into the legendary venue of “The Wimbledon Of Chess.”

I still remember year 2002 when I was playing in the open and before each game I would go into the playing hall where Kasparov, Anand, Ivanchuk, Ponomariov, Adams, Shirov and Vallejo were playing. It was inspirational to be able to watch these players up close and every day I had 30 minutes before my own game started to get inspired by their play.

It was common to run into these guys in the hotel. I once witnessed a blind-folded analysis by Kasparov and Anand on the staircase leading to the upper floors. Or a lift ride with Ivanchuk, who commented with “hmmm” when I told him that Kasparov beat Ponomariov in the penulttimate round to clinch the tournament.

That win over Ponomariov was very important for Kasparov. Apart from winning the tournament, it was a matter of prestige since at that point Ponomariov was the FIDE Champion, having beaten Ivanchuk in the final of the knock-out event in 2001. I remember seeing his mother Klara in the audience going crazy and pumping fists when Ponomariov resigned the game. Was it an extra motivation for Kasparov the fact that the game was played on Fischer’s birthday?

This year, unlike last, the Second Spanish Division was played in the Anibal Hotel and that is where I and my team stayed. I don’t know if it was the aura of the place, the inspiration, or the fact that this time we played in the same playing hall they were playing in 2002, but I played rather well, scoring 100% (6 out of 6) on Board 1. One of the first things I did was to go and see Kasparov’s suite, the one he always occupied when playing here.

This plaque was placed next to the entrance in the suite after his retirement. The room number is 103.

All the winners of the tournament are proudly displayed In the lobby.

My best game from the tournament was played in Round 1. I was Black against a young Spanish talent, rated 2395. I noticed that he played the Nd2 line in the Catalan and I prepared well.

In spite of the mistake on move 14, I quite liked the way I played, the nice positional idea of doubling the g-pawns and also the controlled attack that won the game in style.

Even though my team didn’t do as well as last year, we had a great time in Linares. Additionally, I am quite happy with my recent results and the way I play and feel during the games. After Porto Mannu where I shared 3rd place, this is another good result for me. I cannot really complain about a 100% score, can I?

CONTINUE READING

Mastering Chess Middlegames

I have heard many times about Alexander Panchenko’s teaching methods and successes. A talented player whose playing career was cut short by an unexpected request to head a school for promising young players. He put all heart into the work and in times (1980s) where it was very difficult to collect and organise high-quality training material he was one of the best ones in doing so.

Apart from the Middlegames, Panchenko also had a similar course on endgames, something he valued very much and following Capablanca’s principle that chess should be studied from the endgame backwards, he emphasised the study of the last part of the game.

Very recently my friends at Chessable.com prepared Panchenko’s Mastering Chess Middlegames in their well-known inter-active format. The whole book is organised in chapters, videos and problems to solve in the already recognisable and highly efficient manner. As a preview, they offer a free one-hour sample video that you can see here.

Mastering Chess Middlegames is a book that is a result of Panchenko’s work throughout the years. The organisation of the material and its quality is its highest value. The Chapters have the names like Attack on the King, Defence, Prophylaxis, Equal Positions etc. all being equally important for a successful navigation of the middlegame. Each chapter ends with several positions to solve individually.

It is not obligatory to read and study the book from the beginning until end. I was interested in the chapter Realising an Advantage and went directly to it.

One of the main things that I have noticed in the games of my students is that once they have an advantage they sort of “switch off” (Panchenko’s expression). They expect the games to be won by themselves and just sit back and relax. Coupled with this attitude can be a lack of combinative ability and these two together are the most difficult factors to overcome as a player doesn’t really expect he needs to play combinations or attack, as these two are never associated with “technique.”

Closely related to the combinative ability is the feeling for when “to go over to active operations.” Panchenko says that “this ability usually comes with experience.”

In the same chapter Panchenko addresses the problem of time trouble. It is often that an advantage should be realised with limited time on the clock, especially nowadays with the shortened time-controls and eternal 30-second time trouble. He states 5 main reasons why players fall into time trouble and of these I have found the “uncertainty in oneself and one’s strengths” to be the most common one.

When showing examples of successful realisation of an advantage Panchenko shows quite a few games where direct king attacks and aggressive play are involved. I found it very important to get used to the fact that realisation of an advantage is not a boring, “technical” task!

But there is plenty of that too, as the title “Playing for a Squeeze” would suggest. The classical game Botvinnik-Zagoriansky never fails to impress me.

This is how the whole book is structured. With so many instructive examples it is inevitable that you will increase the level of your play. And add to this Chessable’s structured repetition with their trademarked MoveTrainer and you have a winning combination to increase your playing strength.

Mastering Chess Middlegames is out soon on Chessable (linked) and you can claim your free 1h video here.

CONTINUE READING

Shakh-Attack Destroys Biel 2018

Mamedyarov’s victory is Biel was impressive. Finishing a point and a half ahead of the World Champion and beating him in the individual match is an incredible feat.

I would like to note a distinct characteristic of Shakh’s opening preparation. He often relies on super-sharp and forcing lines to achieve his aim. For example, his use of the old, almost forgotten, line in the Open Spanish when Black sacrifices on f2 and obtains a rook and a couple of pawns for two pieces – he used it to a great effect to secure a good game against Vachier.

With White he is often even more aggressive, using the move g4 whenever he can. He beat Vachier thanks to a deep preparation in the English Opening.

I think the improved quality of his opening preparation has a big impact on Shakh’s recent stability and a firm establishment in the top 3.

The decisive game of the tournament was the direct duel between Mamedyarov and Carlsen. The latter was forced to play for a win since he was trailing with a full point. Here’s what came out of it.

The World Champion didn’t have a good event in spite of the promising start. In fact, both here and in Norway a couple of months ago he started with 2.5/3 and both times he failed to win the tournament!

In the past the scenario of Carlsen’s tournaments was a slow start followed by warming up and an excellent finish. Lately the tendency has reversed: he starts well, but then instead of improving as the tournament goes on his play deteriorates. Carlsen himself admitted to many oversights during his game with Mamedyarov.

It is clear that Carlsen is in some sort of a transitional phase when it comes to his match preparations. He is trying main lines, plays aggressively with White and Black, but at the same time he still hasn’t reached the level of stability he would desire. A lot of work lies ahead for the World Champion!

CONTINUE READING