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Q&A with Coach Heisman Nov 23, 2012

  • NM danheisman
  • | Nov 23, 2012
  • | 5163 views
  • | 21 comments

Today's show featured a bit more use of the demonstration board, which usually makes for good TV. One player said that no matter what his opponent did, he always brought out his two knights first, and was this OK? So I set up a board and said "Well, that greatly depends on exactly what is happening. Are you telling me that if your opponent plays...

...and he laughed and wrote "LOL - no!"

But this shows the danger of open-ended questions or ones that are not very specific. Another question difficult to answer in two minutes was "What's the best way to meet flank attacks?" As with many such chess questions, they write entire books (or at least chapters) on these things, so two-minute answers are not going to address the subject very well. I mentioned the well-known "A flank attack is best met by a counter-attack in the center" but then I gave the warning: In Hendriks' book Move First Think Later he makes fun of this particular principle and, in a random survey of flank attacks he easily showed that in many cases meeting a flank attack with a central counterattack was not possible and in many others where it was, a counterattack in the center proved not to be very effective.

This reminds me that a student asked a much more specific, and instructive, question this week about the following position:



What should Black do - and why? This turns out to also be a very Hendriks-type issue. If we try to apply a Silman technique and look for the imbalances and then figure what would logically apply, we might try a reasonable move like 1...Rad8, activating the least active piece and putting an otherwise dormant rook on its best line, an open file. But while this move is reasonable, it does have the drawback of taking away a flight square for the queen when, after 2.Na3, the threat of 3.Nc4 made Black wonder if 1...Rad8 was such a good move after all.

The great thing about this position is that looking at the imbalances will not get you very far, as sometimes happens. Even experience playing similar positions may not clue you in as to what to do. Rolling up your sleeves and analyzing carefully is the only good approach but, in this case, there are some very specific position-dependent factors that make a move good while in a similar position it would be silly.

I gave this position to Houdini 2 and it said that the only move which gives Black an advantage is 1...Nh5! On the surface this seems reasonable: the knight attacks the strong white bishop and opens up lines for black's king bishop. But where's the follow-up? Can't White just play 2.Bh2 or 2.Be3 and the knight on h5 looks silly? That's usually the case, but not here!

On 2.Bh2 Black has the weird 2...Be5!, a maneuver most masters would not consider because it often looks bad upon 3.f4, but here 3.f4?? c4+ wins material. So Black gets rid of White's bishop pair and clears e5 and f4 for knight invasions. If 2.Be3 then 2...Ne5 is now available and Black is doing well, e.g. 3.Bb5 Rad8 (now).

The point is that this type of maneuver is often bad but here, because of unique ideas like 2.Bh2 Be5 3.f4?, it works. There is no rote way to explain to someone how to play this position (i.e., it's more Hendriks than Silman) and, even more, most masters would probably not jump at the correct idea though, given time, they might find it (try it as a puzzle to your local master: show him (her) this position and ask him to find Black's best idea. He may find 1...Nh5, but the idea of 2.Bh2 Be5 will probably take some time, if he finds it at all. If he does, kudos!). Chess, like open-ended questions in a short TV show, is not always that easy.

Two members asked me what was my favorite opening. I really don't have one. I have openings I play at this time or that, but no favorites. I mentioned the Ruy Lopez as being rich in strategic and tactical ideas - I believe I have won more miniature games with the Ruy Lopez in simultaneous exhibitions than I have with all other openings put together. But today I rarely play 1.e4, so I am certainly not just picking what I play Smile.

Someone asked me to tell them all about pawn structure. Talk about straining that 2-3 minute answer! So I replied that this was a giant subject and chess authors write entire books about this, like Kmoch's wonderful (but descriptive notation) Pawn Power in Chess. Then I said I learned more about just about everything from playing lots of games against good players, reviewing games with them, and playing over lots of annotated master games (more like The Most Instructive Games of Chess or The Art of Logical Chess Thinking than Karpov's Best Games. See Annotated Game Collections vs. Instructive Anthologies at http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman121.pdf ) - that's pretty much the way I learned most chess subjects X, rather than reading a book just about X.

I think a lot of players have the improvement paradigm: "play a lot of games at 10-20 minutes per side, making moves every 20 seconds or so, then read a book about a subject you want to improve (opening, endgame, positional play), then go out and play more 10-20 minute games and move in 20 seconds or so, but the moves should be better. Keep doing this over time and eventually you become expert and master." This paradigm might work OK for some getting from 800 to 1400/1600 or so (partly because their board vision and tactical vision improves greatly with that much practice), but should get diminishing returns after that. I don't know any experts or masters who did not spend years playing slow games (say 60 minutes or likely more each side) in over-the-board tournaments and chess clubs. As I noted in http://blog.chess.com/danheisman/improving-requires-picking-superior-moves-not-reading-books - the analytical practice of taking time to find better moves has to be extensively practiced itself so you learn how to analyze slowly and carefully, a prerequisite for master status.

Another question was on the bishop pair. I quoted GM Kaufman as saying sometimes it is not so much the bishop pair is so strong as that other pairs (knights or rooks) often get in each other's way but bishops never can. And the bishop pair neutralizes one of the great weaknesses of bishops - the ability to control squares of the opposite color.

No questions today on rules, history, the rating system, or computer chess. Oh well, maybe next time! I did get in a couple of plugs for my Everyman book A Guide to Chess Improvement (the publisher will be happy) and the blog I wrote about it earlier in the day (http://blog.chess.com/danheisman/a-guide-to-chess-improvement-how-the-book-was-made).

Finally someone asked about my Nov 23rd Chess Tip of the Day on Twitter (@danheisman) "The player who uses his rooks best wins the opening". I replied that weaker players often know to use all their pieces but don't routinely do so early in the game ("the main goal of the opening is to effectively, efficiently, and safely activate all the pieces"). But it is difficult to use the rooks effectively without at least getting most of the other pieces out of the way, so believing that the player who best uses his rooks is probably the one with the advantage (barring material loss) is just a good way of reminding them to do that!

Comments


  • 21 months ago

    AnlamK

    Wouldn't 2.Na3 be met with Qxb2? Or am I missing something?

    Update: 2...Qxb2 hangs the Q to Qxb2...

    :(

  • 21 months ago

    YoniKer

    MrZwischenzug, Well done!

    I don't know if you know that,but that is an absolutely AMAZING improvement at a very short period of time! Well done,Congrats!!

    I think very highly of Yusupov's 9 books series. "Only" a few introductory words followed a lot of interesting and challanging positions (I am doing the second "Fundamentals" book right now,and i find it some positions challanging!). 

  • 21 months ago

    MrZwischenzug

    Dan and YoniKer both have very constructive ideas. In the past 4 months I have played OTB and studied chess using Yusupov's books in a structured way. In the latter, there are several exercises where you set up a real chess board and pretend you are in a tournament OTB situation. You think for about 5 mins in each exercise and then check the answers. This has really improved my visualization and calculating abilites and has translated to a jump in my USCF rating of around 150 points (I am around 1740).

  • 21 months ago

    chrisfalter

    Hi Dan - Thanks for the summary of the show. Great material, as always!

    As a busy father, husband, professional and community member, I rarely have 2 uninterrupted hours to devote to a chess game. However, I try to play a few online turn-based games right here on chess.com. I typically get about a move a day for 6 games, and I get to analyze as deeply as I want. Well, maybe not always, but if necessary I can defer for a day or 2 until I have a few extra minutes to analyze. As a result, I'm getting 15 minutes a day of deep analysis in the context of my own games. 

    I haven't been doing this long enough to verify whether this strategy (using online turn-based games for deep analysis in lieu of 60 minute games) will definitely work, but it seems promising to me. What do you think?

  • 21 months ago

    YoniKer

    Hehe well...i may be a little selfish here but first i want to help myself improve..people will tend to listen more when i am 2400 rather than 2100 anyways!

    I think that less than 2% reach the low level of 2000 since the little time most players do devote to chess (for the most part at random times rather than  a structured way daily),they devote it either to irrelevant parts of the game (eg memorizing opening or a material which is over their heads) or do it an inefficient way (eg too much of a lecture form too little of a test form). Please correct me if i am wrong.

    Also the truth is (i am sure you did say it!) that no player can improve without training by himself. eg even taking the best chess trainer in the world on a weekly basis will do no good without working alone on your chess. Now,the vast majority of regular students just don't do that,do they?...:)  When i will take up chess training i will do that only as a hobby,charging per rating points improvement rather than per hour,and i will have the luxury of "firing"students,which most trainers cannot for obvious reasons.

    OK time to roll up my sleeves and get back to training... :)

  • 21 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Yoniker - Thanks. Possibly you misread my post. I did not state that you improved at the optimum rate; there would be absolutely no way for me to know that, so my credibility would be low. I wrote that possibly you did ("it might have been") and possibly you didn't ("...it might have been better")! - that covers both cases Smile. I also started my previous post by stating that I believed you, so there is no reason to link to your ratings; that was not my gist.

    As to your statement that anyone can become 2000 within 2 years without playing OTB, that gives hope to a lot, and hope is good! Similarly, Wetzell wrote Chess Master (DH:2200) at Any Age in a similar vein. Of course I meant 2000 OTB, so those that develop on the internet should then play slow OTB, as you did, to show it translates, even if their internet rating makes it likely so. That's just so they can play under the same conditions of others that get titles, at least under current conditions. USCF requires 25 slow OTB games before they designate your rating as "established", which means at least somewhat statistically significant. I didn't become 2000 FIDE/USCF until after 3 years from being an unrated beginner, so any who did make it in 2 would be doing better than I and, of course, more power to them - others (but comparatively few) have done it. Right now 2000 FIDE/USCF is about the top 2% (and 2200 is about the top 0.5%) of USCF tournament players, so if it were that easy I think many would be a lot better, but again it's mostly just my opinion (as is most that I write, of course).

    I certainly hope that you, like myself, will use your experience and positive belief to help more who have access to you get toward their desired goals (2000 or ?), even if/though your methods are different (possibly better!) than mine. We seem to be working toward the same end and that's good. The internet is a wonderful opportunity to help others.

  • 21 months ago

    YoniKer

    Well Dan,i have two official ratings-Israeli (which is supposed to be about FIDE eg uscf+150 or so) and canadian (which is supposed to be about uscf eg fide-150),in both i am in the 2000-2100 range (Israeli 2096,canadian 2006-but i am probably underrated as i have resigned for example in my last game in a philidor position...when i was the one with the pawn up! [If it interests you,i did that because i failed to win an earlier absolutely won position and blundered-that is one of my ways of training myself]).

    I am definetly NOT satisfied with my current low level,and i am working to improve my play. So saying that i did improve at optimum rate or i could not be a better player is not what i am saying at all:) All i am saying is that i am an expert(although i admit it is a silly name considering my weak play level!),and what that you have described as something you did not witness is something that i have done. If you want i can give you a link to both Israeli and Canadian website where i appear...

    OK i guess i don't want to come off as a too agreeable person so i just have to differ on one thing- I think that ANYONE can become a 2000 player within 2 years,and without playing OTB. I understand that you experience suggests otherwise. Well then-my own experience (which indeed includes only one subject) suggest the opposite :)

  • 21 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Yoniker, thanks for the interesting feedback. I believe you, but I stand by my statement. I can't really "know" an expert who has done this unless I know them - that is, I have watched them become an expert without extensive tournament experience. I know at least 100 USCF experts and masters locally and none did it that way, to my knowledge. I am using the USCF definition of expert which is about 2000-2200 FIDE. Other federations might have different rating systems and different names for players just below master. There are millions of people who play extensively online and likely some (like yourself) will/are doing this (in which case I have now "heard of" it happening Smile), but I certainly would not suggest to anyone who wants to become a titled player to primarily play 15 minute games online. It would be very difficult, to put it mildly, to learn how to analyze difficult positions well for long time control games (such as the USCF 40/2 or the FIDE 90 30) that are required for titles if you are not given enough time to practice that extensively in real-time conditions. See my Novice Nook Intermediate Time Controls Hinder Improvement (http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman115.pdf). Of course, once you are already a good player or if you are just playing for fun and not trying to improve at a fast rate, then you should play any time control you wish. In your case it might have been optimum, but we can also believe that if you had spent as much time playing at different time controls then, given your talent, you might have developed it possibly even faster. We will never know...

    Gestor - Thanks also. I respect your (and everyone's) opinion and we are entitled to disagree. I don't recommend Karpov's Best Games to anyone below about 1750 FIDE because it assumes a tremendous amount of knowledge. You can enjoy that book at any level but, in my opinion, to benefit the most from that work and pick up that type of knowledge, it would be better to read and absorb material from books that are written with the intention of providing it to you, such as the instructive anthologies I mentioned. There are many reasons most inexperienced players read lots of books and don't get the most benefits, as I detailed in my early Novice Nook Chess Books and Prerequisites (http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman06.pdf ) and later in Annotated Game Collections vs Instructive Anthologies (http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman121.pdf)

    - Regards, Dan H

  • 21 months ago

    YoniKer

    ." I don't know any experts or masters who did not spend years playing slow games (say 60 minutes or likely more each side) in over-the-board tournaments and chess clubs."

    Well,it is precisely what that i have done,reaching my mediocre 2000-2100 level (expert) took me about 20 slow classical time controled games,and about 3 years of like 15 5 games on ICC...

  • 21 months ago

    gestor

    " I said I learned more about just about everything from playing lots of games against good players, reviewing games with them, and playing over lots of annotated master games (more like The Most Instructive Games of Chess or The Art of Logical Chess Thinking than Karpov's Best Games."

    I understand Your point, but with all respect, I partially disagree with Your example. Namely, the book "My best games" (A.Karpov) has index of tactics, strategies and oppenings, so that reader can pick up chess subjects according to his taste.

  • 21 months ago

    epierard

    Your show is the best! It's a shame that I usually work on fridays now so I can't ask you questions.

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    Yes, it starts to make sense now. I need to do this Q/A thing to draw some teachings out of the super-computers moves, else I feel like I'm lost in the jungle Smile

  • 21 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Hicetnunc - Thanks. I just use Houdini 2 for this since it's about 1000 points better than I am. It says if 1...Nfd7 2.Qc2 with a nice (~2/3 pawn) advantage to White. With the b-pawn guarded and e2 free the bishop is free to go Be2 on Ne5 and the idea of Na3 still looms. If it's good enough for Houdini (rating 3200 - http://www.computerchess.org.uk/ccrl/4040/) it's good enough for me Smile.

    By the way, if anyone has a question for me I might not see it if you post it, but if you email me thru my website www.danheisman.com then I will much more surely receive it and be able to reply in a timely manner.

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    @Lazy, yes it makes sense : 1...Nh5 and Black is sure to get the diagonal back, provided he sees the nice tactical trick Dan has pointed out. But then again, after 1...Nh5 2.Be3 Be5, I would be concerned that the Knight on h5 is sidelined, so you need to see the 2nd idea of 2...Ne5!? when the vulnerability of b2 forces the white bishop to a silly square...But even there, after 3.Bb5, how would you evaluate this position ? I would have a very hard time evaluating it... Undecided

  • 21 months ago

    Hacker4life

    I should have been more specific, the first question in this article was mine...

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    Well after 1...Nfd7 2.Na3 Be5 3.Nc4 Qc7 4.Nxe5 Nxe5, black has managed to get the c7 square for his queen, but he hasn't traded the dark-squares bishops, so white enjoys the bishop pair... Is it good enough for black ? I guess many people would value the long-term asset of the bishop pair here. Also the queen will probably have to move again to get rid of the pin.

    Alternatively, black can play 1...Nfd7 2.Na3 Nde5 too, with a6 (to prevent Nb5) and Qc7-b5 as a follow-up plan ?!

  • 21 months ago

    LazyChessPlayer3201

    hicetnunc after 1...Nfd7 doesn't white reply 2. Na3, and if 2...Be5 then Nc4, The move Nh5 gains a tempo on the bishop, so the idea of Be5 comes without problems.

  • 21 months ago

    hicetnunc

    Mr Heisman, in your example, why would Black even consider playing an idea like Nh5/Be5 ?

    Can we say that Black's current problem is to deal with the Na3-c4 manoeuvre and that Black would like to play his queen on c7, so that it doesn't interfere with the other pieces ? On d8, it would obviously be kicked by a later Rd1, and an idea like 1...Rad8 2.Na3 Rd7 3.Nc4 Qd8 would also fail to a later Bc2 seizing the file ? So black tries to get c7 for his queen, and Nh5-Be5 is a tactical way to do it ? (it also has the additional bonus of trading white's bishop pair and leaving him with a relatively inferior light-squares bishop).

    However, I wonder about 1...Nfd7, with a similar Be5 idea but putting the Knight on a seemingly better square than h5. What's wrong with it ?

  • 21 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Elite_Spartan: Thanks, yes it was GM Susan Polgar. Her quote (a few years ago) was that she still does one hour of tactics a day. I have no further information. You can Google her, find her chess blog, and ask her directly.

  • 21 months ago

    Elite_Spartan

    I appeared today on your video live stream as Xerxes. Umm you said that this lady GM said that she played 1 hour of chess tactics a day. Does that mean 1 hour in parts, lets say two 30 minutes of tactics. Or does that mean in just one straight go.

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