Monthly Archives: Dec 2018

Happy New Year

Less than an hour before this year is over, so a few final words from me.

It was a good year. It was a busy year. There were mostly ups, not so many downs.

Just today I learned the news that I have been appointed a Councillor at the FIDE Fair Play Commission (formerly known as Anti-Cheating). A lot of work lies ahead for one of the most important commissions in modern chess. I have always said that the end of chess will not happen when the computer calculates the game until a final result, it will happen when the humans install chips inside their heads. So our work now is to prevent that from happening.

I tried to take a more laid-back December, but it wasn’t meant to be. A lot of work somehow kept coming and I never got to the long-awaited rest. I am still unsure I’ll have it in the next few days, though I do crave it.

From the chess events in December, the World Rapid and Blitz saw some exciting chess and surprising results. In the end, Team Carlsen was victorious. Isn’t it always?

For me the end of year is always a time for putting things into perspective. I have discovered that whenever I think I have problems and I feel anxious or upset about something “important,” a video like the following one immediately helps me put them right there, into perspective. And then I calm down. Enjoy and happy holidays!


Reversing Mate: World Champions Edition Vol.1

Drilling is one of the most important aspects of chess training. In spite of being so, it is often neglected, most often because it sounds boring. What a mistake.

I use drilling exercises quite often. They are good for getting into rhythm and practicing very quick board vision. This is good not only for blitz, but also for classical chess because it gives you confidence when you see the “small tactics” quickly.

There are different types of drilling exercises. Chessable recently published “the ultimate”ones – the mating exercises.

It is funny that I haven’t done these types of exercises since I was a kid. At that age it’s all about the king and mate, mate, mate! As we grow, we like to think that we’ve “outgrown” playing for mate as we concentrate on other aspects of the game. But the aim of the game is still to give mate, so when I started going over the Reversing Mate: World Champions Edition Vol.1 it all felt distantly familiar.

The author Alan Bester is not widely known. But as Kasparov used to say, I’ll paraphrase, an amateur with passion can sometimes create great things. Alan did the monumental work of first collecting and selecting and then classifying the games of all the World Champions that ended in mate.

The course works in two ways. One the more elementary level there are exercises that are mate-in-one drills that can be practiced with Chessable’s patented MoveTrainer. On the more advanced level, the one that I used, the exercises are multiple-move mating exercises. As I understand it, the author intended the mate-in-ones to be the first step towards the solution of the more complex mutltiple-move mates. From the simple to the complex.

An interesting part (for me at least!) was that even though all the exercises were from the games of the World Champions, not all of them were won by them! Very often they would be brutally mated (often in simuls) by completely unknown players.

While solving the exercises I experienced on myself the addictive aspect of this type of chess work. Once I started it was difficult to stop (and this is way much useful for chess improvement than the endless online blitz sessions, which are equally addictive!). With a huge number of exercises it’s easy to see the next one and say, OK, just one more and I’m off to bed. Then suddenly you discover it’s almost dawn.

But this is actually good! That is the actual point of drilling. Being exposed to the wide variety of mating patterns is hugely beneficial for sharpened attacking instincts and recognition of these patterns in one’s own games. What I found appealing with this course is that it is benefical to pretty much everybody – I found it beneficial to myself and the range of players who can use it to their own advantage goes all the way to beginners who can happily solve mate-in-ones to their own delight.

Alan did a great job creating this training book. I enjoyed it tremendously working through the exercises, especially as I knew this was to my benefit. Giving mate is always sweet, even if it is just in training! I hope you will find the course both enjoyable and useful, so please check it out  following the link below.

Reversing Mate – World Champions Edition Vol.1


Individual European Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018

The tournament took place in my city of Skopje from 6-9 December and I was eagerly waiting for it. I did some preparation for it and was curious to see how things will work out.

In short, they didn’t. I was forced to leave the tournament (the second day of the rapid) due to a bad stomach bug.

However, I won’t dwell here on my health issues. I think there were other, more serious ones, that were at play and led to me having an unimaginably horrible tournament.

Looking at the statistics, I lost only 2 matches in the blitz section. Not bad, at first sight. But from the total of 11 I also won the same number. Not good at all.

There was another thing that was bothering me more and that was the fact that I was constantly playing players below my rating. I have written about this before, being stuck “in the mud” of lower-rated players who you cannot beat and you keep being paired against them. To make it worse, I was “lucky” enough to continuously be paired with players whose classical ratings were several hundred points above their blitz or rapid ratings.

So what was my problem then? Why I couldn’t peform on at least a satisfactory level? The following may read a bit like a stream of consciousness prose, but since these things are still fresh in my mind I write them as they come.

I always prefer to concentrate on my own play. External factors are important, but if anything they would mean that I couldn’t adapt to them in an optimal manner, hence again making myself responsible for what affected me.

The strangest thing was that in fact I was quite happy with how I was playing and feeling (until the last day, when I simply couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t go to the playing hall). My head was working fine, my time management was good and I was regularly getting winning positions.

Only that I wasn’t winning them. Something was missing in the last step, I couldn’t wrap things up. (I will explore an aspect of this “missing link” in a bit more detail in my Saturday newsletter, so if you’re intrigued use the yellow box on the right to sign up for it.) Coupled with my opponents’ resilience this led to a lot of missed points.

The missed points only piled up the frustration. With each round I was growing more frustrated and this feeling is not one you want to be feeling when needing to win. In fact, you need patience and frustration is very closely related to the opposite trait, impatience.

Usually I manage to keep myself under control and this time it wasn’t different. This was the case because I felt the reason was a mix of chess-related and psychological aspects.

From a chess aspect I was lacking the ability to clearly see the final blow with little time on the clock. Usually when in good form (and this is a good indicator of good form) the correct move suggests itself and you manage to calculate it properly. Then everything goes smoothly.

Apparently I wasn’t in good form, and it was a revelation for me to realise that I can feel good, my brain can work well, I can have all the desire to play and enjoy myself and yet the good form can pass me by.

So I was getting stuck in the winning positions. Not at all an uncommon problem of chess players of all strengths. I have noticed it happens to me when not in optimal condition, but as I wrote, I thought I was in optimal condition!

The psychological aspect was a tricky one to pinpoint. I had a few ideas, but the main problem was actually doing something while the tournament was in progress to change the tendency for the better. I have very rarely been successful at this, changing the bad tendency while it’s happening, and this time I failed again.

In fact, I never quite learned how to effectively do that. And I have tried what not. There never seems to be a one-size-fits-all solution that would work every time and in-between rounds there isn’t much time for experimenting.

In short, I bombed.

There was another very important aspect that a simple look at the results shows. I finished 7 matches in a draw. Of these 2 were comprised of two draws while the others were win/loss.

This tendency shows a clear lack of consistency. I would either win the first game and then play the next one badly, or I would lose the first one and then spring back and win in order to save the match.

There are two opposing psychological moments here: inability to hold a lead and the ability to motivate myself to come back from behind.

While the latter is commendable, the former is far from it. I have never played matches in my life (these being the first ones in probably more than a couple of decades) so I never thought about these aspects. I still haven’t, after all the tournament for me finished yesterday, but I will, as this introspection can unearth additional characteristics of my internal “set-up.”

As you can see, this is all still very raw. I wanted to get it out “on paper” while it is still fresh so I can start thinking about it without forgetting the important things. Let’s see now if I manage to come up with something constructive.