Chess events in Oct/Nov

Winter is threatening to unleash itself on Bristol, so we thought we’d remind you of some all-weather chess events before Christmas

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – Sunday 21st October

Everyone’s favourite Sodbury – the Bristol league will once again proudly host some rapid wood-pushers in this charming town. Lunchtime visits to the antique/craft/charity shops and several pubs are recommended/obligatory. Details here.

7_Major Dave

Horfield vs. The League – Saturday 3rd of November

Still spaces left for Bristol league players of any playing strength to enter this friendly anniversary match. There will be two medium-length games, as well as puzzles with a difference, free refreshments, some history of Horfield & Redland club and perhaps a speech from their humble chairman.

Crosshands Blitz – Sunday 4th of November

More blitz action organised by Downend’s Elmira Walker – see their site for details¬†– we hope to make this one!

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Remember places are limited on a first come first serve basis

…Nothing else happening in the chess world in November, right? ūüėČ


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (YouTube)

Two Bristol League Players recently competed in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.  On the latest episode we showcase two games from Lewis Martin who was competing for the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD). Lewis scored a remarkable 72% across 11 games of stiff competition and rumour has it has qualified for the FM title.  Lets take a look.

The first game is a lovely Sicilian Najdorf where both players decide to ignore the concept of defence. ¬†The second game is a tricky “Black to play and win” in a tactical finale.

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (20 minutes)

Please remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive regular updates and share with all your chess friends!

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (YouTube)

In the latest episode we look at a Division 1 game between Horfield and Downend chess clubs.  Black places a knight on the edge of the board and it turns out to be the best piece in a series of tactical exchanges!  Rules are there to be broken!

We also look at a nice checkmate at the Batumi 2018 Olympiad where Bristol league player Peter Kirby is representing Guernsey.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (19 minutes)

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Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Chess myths: Are there really 3 phases to a chess game?

Is it always this simple? Can you define a phase of a chess game? And does your perception of them change how you play?

Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame. This model is simple and may be a useful one to teach, and to define books and DVD’s (Master the Middlegame!, Improve your opening play, etc.). And I must admit I am a fan of chess quotes like these:

“Play the Opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine” – Rudolph Spielmann

or

“To beat me you have to do it three times – once in the opening, once in the middlegame, and once in the endgame” – World Champion Alekhine, at the height of his career.

However I also believe that seeing the game this way can alter your evaluations of your play and it can be limiting (‚ÄúI‚Äôm really bad at endgames‚ÄĚ) or (‚ÄúThat was lost from the opening‚ÄĚ). It can be harmful to stop at these categorisations. You can get stuck in thinking only in terms of these three phases to the extent that it actually harms your moves. A few years ago I was stuck in thinking that a ‘lost’ endgame is irreparable – and I would prefer to make highly speculative moves in the middlegame rather than brave a slightly worse endgame. I didn’t appreciate that the endgame is long – and includes several phases.

To improve your game, we have previously advocated asking other players what type of player you are, and I realised something about my own play when someone said that I “win all my games in the middlegame”. I hadn’t realised, but he was right, I reached an endgame less often than other players.

Now, I’m of course still more than happy to win games in the middlegame – but when I am on the losing side I have learned to fight on and test out opponent’s endgame skills, rather than test their ability to refute a wild sacrifice. Through this, I have learned that a chess game is pretty long after all. The ‘endgame’ especially – can be exceedingly long both in moves played, and the amount of ‘play’ left. One example is this unfavourable position last season, which I managed to turn around:

position1
White is a pawn ahead – and has been since the opening. But Black has been avoiding easy piece-swaps, and therefore keeping the game alive.

I was forced to give up a pawn after a bad opening. Crucially though I had kept the game slightly alive and decided not to panic, and offer to go into double-edged middlegames and endgames. That doesn’t always mean keeping the queens on, it doesn’t always mean closing up the position – it just means finding some imbalance. Here I found myself in a double rook endgame where I could attempt to get my own passed pawn. It still wasn’t great, but it was enough to try.

I eventually conjured up a passed f-pawn which won me the game after a very natural move Rb8 was played here: (Full playback below)

position2a
White is winning, but the best is b5! to gain another passed pawn. My opponent played the natural Rb8, to which I immediately replied Rxa7! There followed Rxa7? and f2! winning for black. See the game below for the cheeky preparatory move Kg7…

My machine says that the game was about +3 to White from move 28 until the mistake on move 43. That’s 15 moves where Black is effectively down a whole piece. But in human terms, it was an extra pawn and some serious work to make it count.

Losing the psychological game

It can be the hardest thing to win a won game. And in amateur chess there are so many swings in the endgame (like the game above!) But take this as a positive – you can play for a win in a lot of positions, just stay positive and try to either prolong or complicate things until your opponent slips up. When you think you are losing, don’t stop looking for wins!

Have you ever been on the back foot in a game, and offered/accepted a draw only to realise that you were actually winning in the end position?

I think this has happened to many of us. If you reach an endgame and think “okay – I’m playing for a draw” then you may miss chances to steer thing around and transition to a winning ‘endgame proper’ – and instead of hanging on, you’ll see ways to complicate the position and create chances for your opponent to slip.

Transitions

In A + B, the ‘+’ is an important ingredient. Or something like that. The point is there is a moment between the Opening and Middlegame, or between the Middlegame and Endgame, which are called transitions. They may last a few moves, and there may be several of them in a row. Some examples include:

  • Exchanges – e.g. trading the queens to go into a ‘Berlin Endgame’ or trading minor pieces to ensure an ‘opposite-coloured bishops ending’
  • Pawn advances to change the structure – e.g. advancing a pawn to block up the centre – turning the game into a blocky, manoeuvring battle
  • Pawn advances to attack – typically the f or g pawns moving two squares with opponent’s castled kingside, signify so much about your plan (and because pawns can’t move backwards, you’re sort of stuck with it!)
  • Sacrifices – these change everything!

There are others of course, but transitions are often more than just one move, they may be preceded by preparatory moves or by other exchanges. They can be short phases – but incredibly important.

The Endgame proper

One phase that definitely deserves recognition is the ‚ÄėEndgame Proper‚Äô – how many half points – or even full points – have you seen be lost or won with just a few pieces left? For example this one:

pawntrick
White to move – Kd6! wins, but the natural Kd5 actually loses to Kf4.

Or how about a rook and king vs bishop and king? Can you draw with the bishop? Can you mate with a bishop and knight? These are all ‘Endgame Proper’ examples and well-worth knowing!

The education of a chess player

I may be over-simplifying this, then again it may be a useful way to think about it, but I believe that the more phases you are able to distinguish in a chess game, the more chance you have to improve in all phases.

Let’s follow this through a typical learning curve:

New player – 1 phase

At the very beginning, you see 1 phase Рjust the game of chess; one long, incredibly complex and surprising string of moves that don’t seem to relate to each other that much. Total chaos in other words!

Beginner – 3 phases

Soon after learning a few things, you see 3 phases:

  • Opening
  • Middlegame
  • Endgame

This helps to break down that enormity and – for example – help you focus on learning the Guioco Piano, or queening an outside passed pawn in a king+pawn endgame.

Beyond – 5 or 6 phases

Later on you see more and more phases and start to think differently. For example, right now I am trying to see up to 6 phases:

  • Opening
  • Transition
  • Middlegame
  • Transition
  • Endgame
  • Endgame proper

Some people have suggested 7, with the addition of another Opening phase – but I’ll need to know more theory for that one! And some have suggested 5, in various combinations.

Of course at some point the distinctions become a less and less practical Рlike arguing how many dimensions or universes there might be. But even thinking about going beyond 3 can lay the groundwork for improvement.

And who knows what really happens in the minds of the Super-GMs – there may be many more definable phases, as well as the infinite parallel-universe games played out frantically on analysis boards. (If you are a super-GM reading this, by the way, please let us know what goes on!).

Conclusion

Chess is a game where it can all change in one move – let alone one phase – but the longer you see the game to be, and the longer you are willing to play it, the more ways you will see to win it.


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

A refined anti-London system for club players (YouTube)

In the last year we have published several articles on an anti-London system based on an early queenside development by black. In our latest YouTube episode we look at how this has been evolving given most London system club players refusal to play 3.c4 and an adherence to the “classic” London structure. One things for sure, it ain’t going to be a draw!

 

An anti-London system for club players (16 minutes)

Leave us comments, suggestions and refutations below! ¬†Until next time…


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Bristol embraces Blitz chess

Longtime readers will remember a cracking night of blitz chess hosted last Christmas at the Cross Hands pub in Fishponds.  Well Blitzit Bristol is back and this time its becoming a monthly evening night complete with discount prices on drinks for players.  In addition, in November the Bristol & District chess league is pleased to launch the first Open Blitz Chess Championship! Lets get some more details on both of these events.

 

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Last Christmas, I gave you my rook. But the very next day…etc etc

Blitzit Bristol

Hosted by Elmira Walker of Downend & Fishponds chess club, Blitzit Bristol will be on the first Sunday of every month starting on the 7th October. Kicking off at 18:30, it offers five double rounds of blitz at 3 minutes +2 seconds increment.  Such a time control leaves plenty of time to get to the bar where Elmira and the Cross Hands pub are generously offering a 10% discount on drinks for all chess players!

But beware, such a great offer is limited to 32 places so if you want to send plastic horses flying across the room in a drunken haze then get in touch now! Its £3 to enter and the event poster is below:

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The address is The Cross Hands, 1 Stable Hill, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 5AA.

1st Bristol League Open Blitz Chess Championship

Organised by Congress Secretary, Igor Doklestic, November 25th sees the launch of the 1st ever Bristol Blitz championship.  Eleven rounds of Blitz at 5 minutes +3 second increment offers plenty of blunder opportunities for established league players or newcomers alike.

Hosted at Bristol Grammar School, tickets are £12 and first prize of £50 is guaranteed.  Doors open at 10:00.  We will post up more details on this exciting addition to the tournament calendar as we get them.

Having successfully hosted the ECF Blitz qualifier earlier in the month it seems the local chess scene is really firing up for faster chess in the coming months. ¬†If you need to practice your over the board speed skills (as opposed to blitzing on your phone) then don’t forget the weekly chess night at the King Bill pub on Kings Street. ¬†An excellent training ground to discover exactly how many pints are detrimental to your calculating abilities. More details for The Bristol Pub Chess Knight (that never gets old) can be found on our Getting Started page.

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Always ready to take on a fresh face, The Bristol Pub Chess Knight has been running in the King William pub since 2006

Until next time


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

Whose attack is faster in a tactical Semi-Slav? (YouTube)

In the latest episode, we showcase a tactical explosion in the Semi-Slav from a recent Division 1 clash between Horfield A and Horfield B. We look at the idea of a bad plan is better than no plan and how the speed of a players attack can be deceptive.

 

Whose attack is faster in a tactical Semi-Slav? – (23 minutes long)

If you are enjoying our game reviews and would like to nominate one of your games for the channel then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Please do remember to subscribe on YouTube and share with your chess friends!

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Practical decisions in the Symmetrical English (YouTube)

In episode 1 of the newly launched Bristol Chess Times YouTube channel we look at a game from the recent Division 1 clash between Clifton B and Horfield C. ¬†A quiet opening sees both sides manoeuvring before white finds a way to disrupt the pawns in front of blacks king but he loses the e-file in the process. ¬†We start our analysis in the middle game where several key positions arise in quick succession that present white with a number of tricky decisions. Lets pick up the action…

 

Practical decisions in the Symmetrical English – (20 minutes long)

If you enjoyed the video please remember to Subscribe on YouTube and share with all your chess friends!  We aim to produce a range of monthly videos and articles on the Bristol Chess Times so please get in touch if you feel there is an interesting game we can cover.

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Welcome to The Bristol Chess Times YouTube Channel

Today we are delighted to announce the launch of The Bristol Chess Times YouTube channel! We feel video is the perfect format for talking through the cut and thrust of your typical amateur league chess match and have worked hard to present a clean and professional looking approach. We hope you subscribe, share and most importantly enjoy!

Our first video is simply a short introduction (three minutes) to the YouTube channel outlining mine and Mike’s ambitions for pushing The Bristol Chess Times and the Bristol & District Chess League forward.

Until next time!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Why don’t amateurs play mainline openings?

I will confess that I had an alternative name for this blog post that went something along the lines of “Wading into the Sicilian swamplands”. However I decided that sounded more like a pulp fiction thriller than a conversation on amateur chess player habits. ¬†In addition I feared it would put too much emphasis on the Sicilian rather than the wider aversion of amateur chess players to tackle openings more usually employed by the professionals. ¬†Across the amateur chess scene you are more likely to see Owens Defence (1…b6) than a Berlin but why is that and what are we so afraid of?

 

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What shall we play today? Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

So unfortunately I fall into the category of amateur chess club player. ¬†To give you an idea of the kind of club player I am I’ve broken down some facts about my play for you:

  • My OTB grade has hovered between 145 – 155 ECF (1788 – 1863 ELO) for the last 10 years.
  • I tend to play in Majors at weekend congresses where I occasionally win a prize
  • Recently i’ve played at the bottom of several Open tournaments where I claim the odd scalp and end up dining out on that far more than the three games I lost in the endgame (of which with best play I should probably have drawn two)
  • The type of openings I play include the Nimzo-Larsen Attack (1.b3), the Scandinavian (1…d5) and the Clarendon Court (1.d4 c5 2. d5 f5?!)

Like a lot of club players, I console my lack of progress (and justify my opening choices) by saying things like “I don’t have time” (note – I really don’t, my children are 2.5yrs and 13 days old) or “My openings drag my opponents out of book“.

But heres the thing.

The entire amateur chess scene says this. ¬†The choice of obscure / semi-sound / non-mainline openings for time poor amateurs is further reinforced by a huge range of system style books and DVDs. As a result it is not unusual to watch a game in a Minor or Major section of a tournament involve 10 opening moves of system style openings where both players are overlooking obvious opportunities on the board in the name of getting to “their desired set up” (as dictated by whichever latest book or DVD you have studied this month).

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing overly wrong with this approach and indeed works well for a large number of club players.

Earlier in the year I wrote several pieces on reviewing your opening repertoire but also how, in my opinion in the amateur world sidelines are the new mainline.

However, is it ultimately limiting the growth of many players? This question is based on a recent eye opening experience that has challenged my belief in this approach.

Time to kill with a stale repertoire

As regular readers will know, I recently suffered a serious accident which has left me convalescing in bed for the last five weeks. As a result i’ve played a lot of rapid chess (10 minutes, no increment) online.

Forced to rest with a lot of time to kill and a growing believe that my repertoire needed updating I started playing anything in order to spice things up. ¬†This radical approach led me to start playing…whisper it…the Sicilian.

1…c5

I know.

Take a moment.

If you were to ask my partner in crime at the Bristol Chess Times, co-editor Mike Harris, my personal opinion of the Sicilian he would probably tell you that its not safe for work and should be broadcast after 9pm in the evening. I hate the Sicilian.

Its complicated, it has entire libraries of theory and literature and every player has a special anti-Sicilian sideline (I’m looking at you 2.b3 weirdos) which makes studying it a nightmare. ¬†Of all the possible opening moves available, I have never played 1…c5.

Well I guess circumstances eventually forced my hand and it turns out that i really like the Sicilian!

Its fun, its tactical and at no point have I bothered to learn any names of any variations.

That last point is key to my message today. ¬†When I first started throwing the C-pawn forward I just started applying sound opening principles to see what happened. ¬†I was just playing chess rather than starting from the position of looking for a new book or DVD involving the words “Crush”, “Win” or “Beat”.

I started winning. ¬†I started winning cool exciting games. Beating 1900’s and 2000’s become the norm rather than the exception. My online rapid play grade went from 1840 to 1950 ELO, a personal best.

Lets look at the numbers taken from my rapid games on Lichess:

  • Scandinavian Defence – Won 38% / Drew 4% / ¬†58% (24 games)
  • Sicilian Defence – Won 59% / Drew 0% / 41% (29 games)

Obviously being 10 minute games amongst amateurs the number of draws is very low. However, the difference is stark!

Noticing my general happiness in my chess improving following the adoption of the C-pawn, I decided to look up the variation I had naturally been playing.  Turns out its called the Scheveningen Variation and has been championed by none other than Gary Kasparov in the past.

Hold on. ¬†This doesn’t compute. Im an amateur player. Every book, DVD and YouTube video ¬†tells me I should be playing a system style opening that crushes all before me and yet I seem to be having fun and winning using a mainline opening played by possibly the greatest world champion of all time.

I shouldn’t be having fun. I certainly shouldn’t be winning because I haven’t learnt any theory in this behemoth opening that has always terrified me. Whats happening?

Style beats theory

Turns out that there is something about the Sicilian that resonates with me. ¬†I genuinely don’t know whether that is that the plans make sense to me, I like the types of tactics or it dissolves into endgames that make sense to me? It could be all three to be fair.

Whatever it is, my personal style seems to connect with the Sicilian and it has really reinvigorated both me personally and my results. Ive learned a valuable lesson.

How much are amateur chess players holding themselves back by not playing mainline openings due to a fear of a lack of time and an intimidation of theory?  How much are club players short changing or even stunting their chess development by burying their heads in their hands because mainline openings are scary?

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“Curses! A mainline opening…(sigh)” Photo by taha ajmi on Unsplash

Ask someone else what your style is

Amateur chess players are famous for telling themselves stories about how they play (“Im a tactical wizard” or “Im a positional master“) but often the reality is far different. ¬†Today I have spoken about how I have accidentally found a love for a mainline opening after shunning it for years.

Remember my point is not to go into realms of time consuming study. I have no more time in my daily life now than before and have still not studied any Sicilian Scheveningen theory (although somebody did mumble something about the Keres Attack, g4, blah blah something something).

Therefore, in my opinion, perhaps the most important challenge for amateur players is identifying their actual personal style rather than starting from the position of which time saving system shall I play? Given we often tell ourselves stories my best recommendation would be to ask your club mates, friends or coach about how they think you play. ¬†Work through several of your games and look at the raw data, even if that data is from blitz games online. You might just surprise yourself over what you learn whilst saving yourself both time and money on that next “Beat everyone with this system” DVD you were eyeing up.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion (Yes. I know its not a mainline…).