Monthly Archives: Mar 2017

Goldchess $5000

In the update to my previous post about the Goldchess project I mentioned that this coming Saturday, 1 April, Goldchess will organise a massive event on their website with $5000 prize fund.
The Non-Stop tournament will offer big bucks, but as usual with big money, they don’t come easy. Expect very difficult problems, but since you will be playing against 1800-rated computer I am sure you will win often – just make sure you get the correct solution!
Karposh Open is also around the corner (also starting 1 April) and my good friend GM Jacek Stopa and I will organise a GC event during the tournament. The details will be posted in the playing hall, so this one will be only for the ones present.
Make sure you check their website for details and good luck!


Shenzhen Masters 2017

The double-round robin in China is a rare event where the ratings do not show favourites and outsiders. The highest rated Giri with 2769 and the lowest rated Svidler with 2741 can easily both win the tournament and that applies for all the other players in between.

It has been a slow affair in the first 4 rounds with only 3 decisive games, but surprisingly enough, 2 of these 3 games were won by black.

Another common feature of 2 out of the 3 decisive games was the demonstration of superiority of the bishop pair in the endgame. Both games were played in Round 3.


The other game was somewhat of a revelation to me – I always thought that the knights were better than bishops when the pawns were only on one wing.



Black’s major problem here was the absence of good squares for one knight – the other knight was OK on f6. Add to that the activity of the white rook and the potential weakness on f7 and it becomes understandable why Black suffered. Quite an instructive endgame!

After 4 rounds it is Giri and Ding Liren in the lead with 2.5/4, only 1 point ahead of tail-enders Svidler and Adams on 1.5. I expect a close tournament with a lot of draws until the end, but with games like the above ones I wouldn’t mind!



Inspirational Quotes

While still at University I started a file where I collected memorable lines, quotes, ideas and sometimes even whole paragraphs that made a deep impression on me. It started with Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (“God helps them that help themselves”) and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance (“It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine”) then continued with Shakespeare (everybody knows “All’s well that ends well (yet)” but very few know the follow-up “Though time seems so adverse and means unfit”) and from there I started collecting memorable lines from every book I read.

The chess-related inspirational quotes came much later. Mostly because I rarely found really insightful things said about chess! Not that there weren’t any, but because I’ve known them for so long that they had become part of my understanding and I didn’t find them insightful, just part of my understanding.

Here I would like to present some of the more recent ones. They are precise verbalisations of something I had vaguely sensed but never came to defining and putting into words myself. Enjoy!


The secret of succeeding in such [dead-drawn] positions in a practical game is to create the impression of momentum and progress. That automatically puts pressure on the opponent, and once an opponent feels pressure, mistakes are never far behind. – from M. Sadler’s “Chess for Life”


Those who calculate well – it’s bad for them. That means they won’t be successful for long. You have to be able to play with the hand, not only with the head.

On the first moves you should see wide, not deep. And calculate only when it’s necessary. Calculate only two moves ahead, so as not to blunder something. – Alexey Dreev (my translation from an interview in Russian)


Up to a point I’m maintaining my level and then when the pressure increases I can’t keep it up. Someone who’s in bad shape usually blunders something at some point. Often people are in bad shape and get away with it. If a guy like Magnus is in bad shape it’s very rare someone spots it. – Anish Giri


Keep the pressure on them every second. They all crack.

Don’t “turn off” your mind when it’s your opponent’s turn to move. Use this time to think ahead to your next possible move. And when he does move, always ask yourself, “Why did he make this particular move?” before you do anything else.

Don’t give up in the middle of the game if you don’t think you’re doing well – or even if you’re in big trouble. There’s always a chance that you’ll have a flash of brilliance or that your opponent might slip up. Chess is a kaleidoscope – it’s ever changing – and opportunities suddenly appear. – Bobby Fischer


The point is not to always try to and make the best move. – Veselin Topalov


In his time Robert Fischer achieved a new level of tactical precision […] Fischer didn’t allow mistakes that his contemporaries, for example Boris Spassky, thought to be acceptable inaccuracies. And he didn’t pardon them.

Carlsen, as it seems to me, reached the next level of tactical precision. When they say that Carlsen plays until the end, that he keeps the tension […] that is correct. But it’s necessary to understand why that happens. And why the others cannot do it.

Any other player from the top 20 will try to squeeze water from stone in an equal position, but he will make an inaccuracy in his calculation, then again he will miss something and will realise that it’s better not to risk and just make a draw. Carlsen, while doing the same, somehow manages not to make mistakes.  – Dmitry Jakovenko (my translation from an interview in Russian)


I think it’s an important trait of a good player to be able to have the same level of focus and creativity in simple positions as well as more complicated ones and thus create chances at any point in the game. I don’t think making few mistakes and playing very accurately for a long time should be a negative.

Kasparov told me many years ago not to play tournaments with amateur conditions, because then you will play amateur chess.

In this sense I have that in common with Karpov in his heyday: he believed deeply in his abilities, he was very combative and won a lot of games in tournaments because even when he was not in a good position, he felt he could still win and played all the way. I’m somewhat similar in spirit: during a competition, I always believe in myself.

…if my opponent is not playing for a win, then regardless of the position I should be able to do it myself. – Magnus Carlsen


We were born to succeed, not to fail. – Henry David Thoreau (he didn’t write it about chess, but I’m sure you can see the connection.)


Hard work is talent. – Garry Kasparov


Goldchess Comes to Karposh


The ever-increasing project of Goldchess is widening its horizons both east and west. One of the main activities it uses in the promotion of the puzzle-solving contest is organization of actual tournaments.

The latest news is that in March there will be a big Goldchess event in Mumbai. Being generous with its online prizes Goldchess is equally lavish for the prizes of the on-site tournaments.

Another place Goldchess will visit is Skopje. During the Karposh open (here is a list of participants) there will be a GC tournament in the playing hall on one of the mornings. The participants will be required to bring their own laptops and then should just do their best to solve the problems.

GM Jacek Stopa, a very good friend and one of the driving forces behind the success of Goldchess, made the following very instructive and useful video that clearly explains how the whole process of solving works. Take a look and see how easy it is to win money with GC!


UPD. On 1 April Goldchess will launch a massive Non-Stop tournament on their site with a prize fund of $5000. However, this time don’t expect easy money – they plan to make the problems extremely difficult! But sometimes difficulties inspire people, so who knows, maybe you manage to win big! In any case I wish everybody good luck!


The Double Fianchetto Solution

In my previous post I wrote that I will take a look at my games with black in the PRO Chess League. They were notable because the variation I used exceeded all my expectations and the positions I got very excellent.

It was one of those ideas that I have briefly looked at but never analysed properly. Since I decided that I would play the Nimzo against 1 d4 my choice was the …g6 idea in the QID after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 g6!? The good thing about this idea is that it can be universally used after 1 Nf3 as well, with a transposition very likely. I dubbed it The Double Fianchetto Solution and I wrote about it in more detail in my newsletter (if you’re interested, please sign up using the form on the right). That is what happened in my first game with it:



Not a bad start at all! Both the opening and the result were very satisfactory.

The second game was the biggest test. I played GM Vidit, rated 2689 at the time, who served as Anish Giri’s second in the Wijk aan Zee that finished just days before our game. I could expect some top-notch preparation and he didn’t disappoint.


A very lucky win for me and the opening could have gone better. As Capablanca used to say, one should play the openings that bring good results, irrelevant of the positions you get from them! And since black’s opening could be improved upon, I decided to continue to use the system.



I missed my chances, but the opening was a breeze again. The next two games can actually serve as a completion of the repertoire based on the double fianchetto as they showed how black can use the 2…b6 move order against various systems that white can play after 2 Nf3. I discovered this in the mid 00s when my repertoire was based on the Nimzo and the QID – playing 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b6 gives black additional options agaist the London and Colle Systems because he can use the double fianchetto and obtain more dynamic play.



I felt under some pressure after the Grunfeld-like choice of 7…d5 (now I would prefer 7…d6) but there was never a clear way for a white advantage. And I won again!

The last game was a worse version than the London System as white played 3 Bg5, giving black a tempo with …Ne4.



Again smooth sailing for black! And a final 4.5/5 against such strong opposition is definitely an excellent advertisement for the variation. The practical point of playing it (it can be used against both 1 d4 and 1 Nf3) was the decisive factor in my choosing it. Another important aspect was the psychological – I didn’t mind getting equal and simple positions with several pieces exchanged, thus risking a draw against lower-rated players. The reason was that in rapid games mistakes happen in all positions so a chance to win the game will present itself even in the dullest of positions. Now that I think of it, perhaps this is applicable for classical chess as well…

Of course, if one wants to complete the repertoire then the Nimzo, the Catalan and the English 1 c4 need to be taken into consideration, but nowadays the trend is to avoid the Nimzo, so I expected people to allow me to play the line in this tournament. Personally I still feel that I need to prepare the line more deeply if I want to play it in long games, but it certainly showed great potential. For now, let’s keep my future opponents guessing!


Fischer’s Birthday

Today is Fischer’s birthday, he would have been 74. I have fond memories of this day as usually I played well on his birthday. He has always been my idol and I felt inspired to play on the day he was born.

The game I present below was played in Cannes in 2003. It was a difficult time for me personally, but one of the things I discovered about myself during the infinite nomadic travels from tournament to tournament was that I actually played well when things were difficult off the board. Whether those were personal matter or difficult conditions I usually managed to compose myself and really do my best.

The game against one of the strongest French Grandmasters, Christian Bauer is perhaps one of the best I have played against a strong opponent. The main theme is the one of control, I was never in danger and I kept him under pressure. The high quality of my moves was consistent. I still remember how it felt like a breeze. Perhaps that’s how Fischer felt too.



Games from the PRO Chess League

I promised that I would post some of the games I played in the PRO chess league on So now that the problems with the chessboard’s appearance have been solved, I present you with some of my efforts.

The league was a good training ground for some of the old analysis and preparation I never had a chance to use. For example, take a look at my game against GM Ghosh where I managed to use a well-forgotten idea from the 1960s in the Breyer variation of the Spanish.



Here’s an example how things can quickly go wrong in an endgame in rapid games. In the position below I offered a draw, but he immediately played a move.



And here’s a game where again I used a line that I prepared long ago. It turned out surprisingly well!



In case you’re in need of another idea against the Caro-Kann, here’s one that I used in the beginning of the 00s, admittedly with mixed success. But in the rapid it gave me a great position straight away!



In my next post I’ll take a look at some of my black games where I successfully used “The Double Fianchetto Solution.” Stay tuned!



This is my first post on my new blog and I am very happy the process pf migration was quick and efficient. There are still some things that need polishing, but the most imporatant thing is that the blog is working well!

There are some design changes and the main one is the friendly orange sign-up box on the right, inviting you to join my Inner Circle. I think I should give you an idea what that means. I have envisioned the Circle as a place where more direct communiation will take place among its members. My intention is to share more personal stories and often give my opinions on various openings, ideas and concepts. As an illustration, please read below for an example of what that means in practice:



“When you hear hoof beats, think of a zebra.” – Sufi Saying

I love this saying. I first encountered it in the book of my favourite contemporary chess author, GM Jonathan Rowson, Chess for Zebras. It reminds me not to be on the side of majority (“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain) because the majority would think of a horse. And I try to think of a zebra.

I first got acquainted with Jonathan Rowson’s work in the previous century (that was a long time ago, wasn’t it) when his first book, Understanding the Grunfeld inspired me to seriously study and play the opening. I was always platonically in love with the Grunfeld, I was attracted to the sole bishop on g7, which both defended the king and attacked white’s centre. My results with the Grunfeld weren’t spectacular, but I always felt the thrill to push the pawn on d5 on move 3. Rowson devised a repertoire for black but from a completely different perspective – he told stories and explained concepts and then wrapped them up in some theory. It was exactly the kind of opening book that I wanted to read!

Years passed and in 2006 I played in Dos Hermanas. I was there with my very good friend, the Indian GM Neelotpal Das. During the tournament he gave me a book to read, imagine my surprise when it was Rowson’s second book, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins. I was completely immersed into the book that I read it in several hours during the night (yes, I can read pretty fast)! I also took notes from the book on a piece of paper – the size of the piece of paper was one from a notebook. It’s hard to believe, but somehow I managed to squeeze all the important information on that one piece of paper. I still have it, when I find it I will take a picture of it and I will send it to you (UPD: see below for this)! The book is about the shortcomings all chess players have (to a bigger or lesser extent) and what to do about them. As usual, Rowson discusses these topics in his usual educated and precise style, I would always catch myself thinking how he managed to put into exact words what I have only vaguely sensed. Needless to say my admiration of him only grew.

And then came the Zebras, his last book to date. The subtitle is telling, Thinking Differently about Black and White. I am sure we all somehow feel that there are subtle differences when playing white and black. And it’s not only the advantage of the first move or the choice of opening or variation. It’s much more subtle than that, it’s an inner dynamic that is difficult to put into words, yet Rowson succeeds to pinpoint all the nuances – it took him some 250 pages to do it, but he did it and I doubt any other author would have done a better job.

Next weekend I will go to the UK to play at the 4NCL for my team Cheddleton. I started playing for Cheddleton in 2012 and have been a regular ever since. Several years ago (it was in November 2013) the league was played in Hinckley and after finishing my game rather late I was in a hurry to catch the train to London. I ran to the reception in a desperate need for taxi when I noticed none other but Jonathan waiting for his! I asked him if we could share the taxi since I was running late for my train. He didn’t mind and soon enough I found myself sharing the taxi with my favourite author! It was only in the taxi that we introduced each other, and then he introduced himself I told him, “Yes, I know, you’re my favourite author!” and he seemed to be a little embarrased by that. We had a very pleasant chat during the ride and on the train station and I remember that there were so many things I wanted to ask him (and I was already a GM by that time!) but time was short… We discussed a lot of things, some variations as well, and I remember one thing he told me, he considered it a mistake – he told me that he should have tried to go as far as possible with the Najdorf (he was a Najdorf player) instead of changing to the Spanish. Changing his main opening against 1 e4 took him time and energy to adjust to the new positions and he felt that this slowed down his progress. These kinds of observations are what have always attracted me to his style. He looks at chess from a higher perspective and this is extremely rare nowadays. And, coincidentally, I am now at the same point, incorporating 1…e5 into my own repertoire and playing it more often, after a lifetime of Sicilians.

During that taxi ride I asked him if he planned to write another book. He was hesitant, he had too many other obligations outside of chess and they were taking his time. But he didn’t say a direct no. Well, for sure I will be waiting for that next book when it comes out, whenever that may be!


My notes from Zebras