Monday, March 30, 2009

Blindfold chess

THE limelight now is on Amber, one of the major tournaments in the chess calendar. Now on its 18th edition, it is sponsored by legendary Dutch billionaire Joop von Oosteroom in honor of his daughter, Melody Amber, and only the top players of the world are invited. Aside from hefty appearance fees, the total prize is 216,000 Euros.

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Its most unique feature is that half of the games are played “blindfold”—the art of playing without seeing the pieces or chessboard—which to the uninitiated is difficult to comprehend. It is actually a piece of cake even for the ordinary master now, after some practice.

During the 18th century, when Philidor played two blindfold games of chess simultaneously, eyewitnesses were asked to sign affidavits attesting to this remarkable feat. Many famous psychologists thought then that playing blindfold would cause great harm, even madness.

In the former Soviet Union, simultaneous blindfold chess exhibitions were banned for they were decreed bad for your health! Perhaps there are some grounds for this belief since two of the greatest blindfold performers in the first half of this century, Pillsbury and Alekhine, died rather young (Pillsbury 31, Alekhine 54) and supposedly suffered great headaches after these “séances.”

Since then, blindfold chess has produced some of the greatest memory exhibitions in history. Here are some remarkable feats of simultaneous blindfold games played in modern times.

In 1937, George Koltanowski set the blindfold record by playing 34 opponents in Edinburgh, Scotland, scoring +20, -0, =14. This topped Alekhine’s 32, but was later broken by Miguel Najdorf (Argentina) at Sao Paulo, 1947, who played 45 (+39, -2, =4). Then Janos Flesch of Hungary broke this mark by playing 52 in 1960 (+31, - 18, =3), later in 1960 Koltanowski regained the record by playing 56 opponents (+50, -6, =0).

Other remarkable feats of simultaneous blindfold exhibitions have been by Paulsen, Morphy, Blackburne, Zukertort and Reti. Among the current crop Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Morozevich, Levon Aronian and Magnus
Carlsen are constant top placers in Amber and Bilbao.

Playing blindfold requires a tremendous amount of visualization skills and analytical abilities, since the player has to remember the entire game in his mind.

You must be very familiar with algebraic notation to keep track of all 32 pieces on the 64-square board. Playing online chess also helps in improving your visualization skills.

Blindfold chess, in moderation, has been recommended by many adherents as a remarkable way to improve your game. It has become very popular among people in training because it forces one to visualize the board in the mind, encouraging better understanding of the position.

If you are interested in learning to play blindfold chess, the best way to start is to find two other people equally interested in the same. This way, two people can play at the same time while the third member moves the pieces on the board.

Play the first 10 or so games completely for fun, and expect to remove the blindfolds at some point during the game when one player becomes hopelessly lost. Continue this until every player can make it through complete games without losing track of the pieces. Essentially, you have to master the ability to keep all 32 pieces and their locations in short term memory, which is quite tricky at first.

After time, playing blindfold chess is almost like playing regular chess.

Blindfold chess is highly recommended to develop the ability to visualize. It is very useful for

50 bad chess habits

LAST week, I wrote “64 chess commandments,” describing what one must follow in order to play excellent chess. This time, I am featuring what you should not do.

1. Playing too fast. 2. Neglecting to castle. 3. Failing to develop pieces early. 4. Moving the same pieces multiple times in the opening. 5. Underestimating the importance of controlling the center 6. Expecting to win in the opening. 7. Unwise pawn grabbing at the expense of development.

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8. Giving useless checks and idle threats. 9. Relying on opponents errors. 10. Making careless moves. 11. Making unsound gambits. 12. Attacking with only one or 2 pieces. 13. Exchanging pieces without purpose. 14. Creating weaknesses in your position

15. Overlooking opponents threats. 16. Missing tactical opportunities by not analyzing changes in the position. 17. Losing material by not asking yourself “Is this move safe?” 18. Believing that early material deficit can be overcome. 19. Not keeping accurate count of materials all the time. 20. Being mentally lazy by not looking far ahead. 21. Having no systematic method of searching for a move.

22. Failing to analyze each position. 23. Not analyzing the consequences of all possible captures. 24. Playing with no plans at all. 25. Persisting with faulty plans. 26. Becoming so involved in your plans and neglecting your opponent’s threats.

27. Not playing adequate defense by not breaking pins early, not keeping all pieces and pawns defended, walking into knight forks, aligning your queen and king with enemy‘s pieces. 28. Ignoring or discounting positional possibilities such as open files and diagonals, outposts and rooks on the 7th rank.

29. Ignoring or underestimating the importance of pawn play (passed pawns, pawn exchanges and sacrifices, weak pawns and holes in pawn structure. 30. Being too passive. 31. Too willing to trade queens. 32. Always accepting sacrifices without analyzing the consequences 33. Never playing sacrifices. 34. Playing the opponent rather than the position on the board.

35. Not activating your king early in the endgame. 36. Becoming intimidated by playing passively against stronger opponents or playing carelessly against weaker opponents. 37. Concentrating ahead of your opponent on the clock rather than on the board. 38. Not relaxing by taking frequent mental breaks during the game.

39. Not creating, protecting and advancing your pawns in the endgame. 40. Always playing to win when a draw is realistic. 41. Resigning prematurely. 42. Agreeing prematurely to draws. 43. Becoming overconfident and careless on winning positions. 44. Listening to too many advice chess-givers. 45. Not recording and reviewing your games. 46.Not studying regularly. 47. Not trying new ideas even on casual games.

48. Carelessly allowing losing opponents to stalemate. 49. Playing only weaker opponents. 50. Becoming emotionally upset after losses instead of learning a pertinent lesson in order to improve future play.

Aboitizland-Opascor match Aboitizland edged Opascor 11-9 in their 10-board goodwill match last Wednesday at the Opascor training room. Two games were played by each player and those who had perfect scores were Ryan Villacorta, Maggi Dionson, Mandy Baria, Rogelio Pesole and Earl James Returya of Aboitizland and Marwin Eguia, Tony Riveral,Ricky Lucero and Gerry Dignos of Opascor. There were no draws in the hotly contested match.

Others who played for Aboitizland were Jesmar Cabriles, Anthony Abueva, Jypsie Cullano, Jade Garzon and Bering
Buenaventura. The host team had Fel Alasagas, Albert Mula,Tomas Riveral, Lesar Ortega, Vench Ybanez and Mark Alasagas.

There will be a rematch on April 4, this time at Aboitizland in Banilad.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Teaching your child to play chess

DESPITE what has been written and said about President Arroyo, I think she has done a lot of good for the Philippines in general. The one thing that I admire the most is her decision to include chess as part of the curriculum for elementary and high school students starting next school year.

I suppose that National Chess Federation of the Philippines president Butch Pichay had a hand in this momentous decision as well as secretary Jesli Lapus of the Department of Education.

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They will start a legacy that will be considered one of the turning points in the history of our country. Producing masters in chess is just the gravy. The main and foremost result is the production of responsible and conscientious citizens that will make our country great and prosperous.

START AT HOME. Dr. Robert Ferguson cites several factors in the child’s development in chess: children love games and playing chess motivates them to learn; chess creates a pattern or thinking system that breeds success; the chess- playing child become accustomed to look for more and different alternatives; chess offers immediate punishments and rewards for problem-solving; chess competition fosters interest, promotes mental alertness, challenges all children and elicits the highest levels of achievement.

Based on the evidence, it’s easy to conclude that chess can play an essential role in a child’s development.

Here is what you do. Chess is very complex and if you introduce a child to the game in the wrong way, it quickly can become tedious and boring for him. If that happens, he will tune you out.

Read my two previous articles “64 chess commandments ” and “50 bad chess habits” for guidance. Here are the steps to follow which are culled from various sources on the Internet.

1. Present the game in a step-by-step process, making sure the child masters each step before proceeding to the next.

2. Make the lessons short. Don’t overload your child. Don’t teach all the moves for all the pieces in one lesson.

3. Spend more time practicing lessons you’ve already covered than teaching new material.

4. Use the Internet whenever possible.

5. Make use of a chess computer program for practice games. This will increase markedly your child’s interest in the game.

6. If you are giving a lesson, be prepared. Your child must believe that you know what you’re talking about.

7. Give your child positive reinforcement whenever possible. For a particularly outstanding chess performance, reward the child materially with his favorite dessert or a visit to the movie theater.

8. Present new chess material only when your child is well-rested and fresh.

9. Be patient. Don’t expect too much too fast.

10. Keep it fun! If either of you is not enjoying the lesson or practice session, cut it short.

11. Have the child watch the games of experienced players. Children can improve their games by watching the strategies of others and applying what they have learned to their own games.

12.Take the opportunity to teach the child good sportsmanship. The child will likely lose as much as he wins and should maintain a good attitude regardless of the outcome.

13.Make sure that you keep the game honest. Never lose to your child on purpose. This will take away part of the learning experience from the game. Your child will also soon figure out what you are doing and a lot of the fun will be gone.

14. If your child shows great promise, invest in a good chess instructor. I know of several good ones, all masters, who are more than willing to help and whose fees are reasonable. They have a role model to follow in our Wesley So. He is only 15 and is earning millions with more to come.

15. There are kiddies tournaments,let them play including playing with adults

Linares, Melody Amber and battle of GMs

LINARES, considered the “Wimbledon” of chess, has ended .

Alexander Grischuk (2733, Russia) took first place due to having more wins than Vassily Ivanchuk (2779, Ukraine) after both finished with 8/14. The tournament took place from Feb. 18 to March 8. The winner took 100,000 Euros and the second and third placers earned 75,000 and 50,000 Euros, respectively.

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The other participants, all belonging to the 2700 club, were Magnus Carlsen (2776, Norway), Viswanathan Anand (2791, India), Teimour Radjabov (2761, Azerbaijan), Wang Yue ( 2739, China), Levon Aronian (2750, Armenia) and Leinier Dominguez Perez (2717, Cuba).

The 18th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament is being played March 14 to 26 in Nice, France. The legendary sponsor is billionaire Joop Von Oosteroom in honor of his daughter Melody Amber .The total prize fund is 216,000 Euros.

This year’s field is stronger than ever with all the world’s best players taking part. The 12 participants are (in alphabetical order): World Champion Anand (India), Aronian (Armenia), Carlsen (Norway), Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Gata Kamsky (United States), Sergey Karjakin (Ukraine), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Peter Leko (Hungary), Alexander Morozevich (Russia), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Yue (China).

The Turkish Chess Federation is organizing the first event of the new Women Grand Prix series 2009/2010 in Istanbul starting March 6.

The Fide Women Grand Prix is a new series of six elite tournaments over two years in various countries with three tournaments every year. The next tournament is planned in Nanjing, China at the end of September.

The top placer of the Grand Prix will challenge the 2010 World Cup winner to be the undisputed women world champion.
The players are Koneru Humpy (India, 2621), Hou Yifan (China 2571), Antoanetta Stefanova (Bulgaria, 2557), Pia Cramling (Sweden, 2548), Marie Sebag (France, 2529), Maia Chiburddanidze (Georgia, 2516), Zhao Xue (China,2508), Elina Danielian (Armenia, 2496), Shen Yang (China, 2448), Martha Fierro (Ecuador, 2403), Zeinab Mamedjarova (Azerbaijan, 2363) and Betul Cemre Yildiz (Turkey, 2214).

In eight rounds, Zhao Xue has seven points after defeating Hou Yifan to take the lead. Fifteen-year-old Hou has 6.5 points, and at third place is the top seed Koneru Humpy with 6.

In the national level, the Battle of GMs 2009 will be from March 24 to 31 in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

A total of 24 players—12 each in the men’s and women’s divisions—are seeing action in the week-long competition which offers a total cash prize of nearly P1 million.

The players entered in the men’s division are GMs Wesley So, John Paul Gomez, Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio, Mark Paragua, Darwin Laylo, Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor and Jayson Gonzales and GM-candidates Richard Bitoon, Julio Catalino Sadorra, Rolando Nolte and Ronald Dableo.

In the women’s division, the participants are Dresden Olympiad veterans Catherine Perena, Chardine Cheradee Camacho, Shercila Cua, Daisy Rivera, Christy Bernales and Sherily Cua. Also in the event are Rulp Ylen Jose, Beverly Mendoza, Jedara Docena, Kimberly Jane Cunanan, Jan Jodiyln Fronda and Rida Jane Young.

In the local scene, the Second Pakigne Open tournament will start tomorrow at the Garces Apartment in Pakigne, Minglanilla. Format is seven rounds Swiss and time control is 25 minutes per player, play to finish.

Games starts at 9 a.m. and registration is P200. The champion will get P6,000 and prize money will be given up to 10th placer.

The top kiddies and woman players will take home P700. You can get in touch with the organizer, Bernard Garces, at 269-0161 or 0920-901-6499.