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How to Win at Live Chess

In Australia, with a population (as of July 2009) of 21,262.641, there are less than 3,000 people on the ACF's Active Players list. That compares rather badly with chess.com which lists 23,009 Australian members.

New players can be quickly discouraged when they learn that the tactics that win against their friends simply don't hold up at club level. The result is that most don't stay very long. On the Internet that kind of mismatch doesn't have to happen. There are so many players on-line (almost 800,000 with chess.com alone) that we soon find our comfort zone and can play at the level that affords most enjoyment. Internet chess will never replace the excitement of playing in a big tournament but, for pure pleasure, you can't beat it.

I've been playing on the Net for the past eight years and rarely play anywhere else. It has all the convenience of playing from home, finding opponents of your own strength, and talking to people around the world. I've chatted with Russian lawyers, Chinese soldiers, Antarctic scientists, and just about everybody else you could name.

Internet chess is neither as intense nor as serious as club chess. Lots of very quick moves get played, sometimes with disastrous results. Sometimes they're just plain funny – whether they happen to you or to your opponent. If FIDE developed a black box game recorder to capture comments used by Internet players whose games had just crashed, I think the most frequently recorded word would be, "Oops!”

Now that chess.com's Live Chess Beta is almost ready to evolve into a satisfying playing medium I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things I've learned.

The following examples were all taken from blitz games on the now-defunct World Chess Network. Don't expect excellence—do expect fun.

Hint #1: Attacking the enemy queen develops pieces with tempo. IM David Pruess explained in his TV broadcast last week that it's not always a bad thing to develop your queen early. That flies in the face of my own experience, and my BS will trump his IM any day.

Hint #2: Defence is for wimps. There will come a time when you've been under attack by a stronger opponent who keeps finding ways to increase the pressure. You can keep defending and lose intelligently and with dignity, or you can do what the Norsemen did of old—send your Berserkers into the fight and see how strong his own defence is.

Hint #3: The Sicilian is a fighting defence that quickly wrests the initiative from White. In 1971 Lajos Portisch, then in the world's top ten, won the Karlis Lidums Tournament in Adelaide ahead of GMs Schmid, Gheorgiu, Matanovic and Browne. After one game a chess journalist, commenting on his opening play, asked, “Was that move in the book?” Portisch's reply was a very much to the point: “I have my own book,” he said. In the next game the Black player had his own book too—but he was no Portisch.

Hint #4: The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it. Well, yes. I guess. Of course if the clock is ticking down and you get flustered, you might not make the best moves. (Conundrum: if a clock ticks on the Internet and there is no one there to hear it, is there any sound?)

Hint #5: When your opponent refuses to resign a lost game—punish him! Some people just don't know when a game is over and play on, hoping for that once-in-a-lifetime stalemate. In the next game I had a bishop and five connected pawns against White's lone king who strutted back and forth in front of the approaching horde, like Canute defying the tide; so I decided to see how far I could push before he quit in disgust. I underestimated the guy—he was resolute to the end.

A word of warning to young players: don't take these hints seriously—they'll get you into all kinds of trouble.

Comments


  • 4 years ago

    Dozy

    Hi Mike ... sorry, Facebook it ain't! (I thought that particular post had been deleted.)

  • 4 years ago

    MikeDoyle

    Can I just click on "like" somewhere? LOL

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    InvictusX: I think people should be encouraged to play and persuaded to study the game more- not just casually play.

    Hi Mr X, and welcome to chess.com. 

    One of my friends (he plays on chess.com as unklecyril ) once told me that when I try to be serious it's as unnatural as a dog standing on its hind legs -- so you'll find my blog is better taken with a grain of salt.  That being said, I'll try and be serious for a few minutes.

    There's obviously a great deal of pleasure to be had from studying the game as well as playing, and there's much more pleasure in winning than losing -- though I've had some really funny losses -- as, for instance, the Bouncing Knight from Outer Space , which was a Chess 960 game. 

    The guy who taught me the moves taught me only enough so that he could beat me easily -- and every game was accompanied by disparaging comments about my moves.  I was determined to get good enough to beat him, and it didn't take long.  He was a poor player, though plenty good enough to humiliate a beginner.  After six months he went looking for easier victims.

    I have a lot to thank him for because without that early humiliation I wouldn't have had the incentive to improve.

    There's much in what you say.  There's a great deal of pleasure to be had in studying the game and the people who play it, and I'd encourage everybody to do that; but the old adage that chess is like an ocean in which a gnat can drink or an elephant bathe holds true.  We're all different and we get what we want from it.

    There are many learning tools available on chess.com and many blogs and forums from an enormous range of chess players.  Drop me a message if you need any help finding your way around, or if you have any questions about chess.com.

  • 5 years ago

    InvictusX

    I think people should be encouraged to play and persuaded to study the game more- not just casually play. I guess it all depends on the individual. But with a little effort people who enjoy the game could take a little more time to get deeper into the game- maybe with the help of a friend that is more into it. People get discouraged because they lose- but Chess is a game of mastery and learning not always about winning. There is always a bigger fish- and the great thing about Chess is we have a lifetime to grow!!!

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    myfreechess: cool

    Cheers, myfreechess. 

    Romance writer, Nora Roberts, also writes futuristic detective stories under the pseudonym of J.D.Robb.  They're about homicide lieutenant Eve Dallas who is married to billionaire Roarke.  (Mills and Boon goes Crimebusters!)  They're exciting, intriguing, high action stories that I can recommend to lovers of the genre, though Ms Roberts's liberal use of four letter words will offend many sensitive readers.

    So why mention it here?  Because, myfreechess, she has taken the world "cool" and given it a life of its own.  This is one of the words that will have grown over the next forty years and, in the brave new world of 2050, cool will have given way to "ice".

    So thanks for your icy comment!  Cool

  • 5 years ago

    myfreechess

    cool

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    philtheforce:  checkmate the opponent

    Dammit, Phil!  I knew there was something I'd overlooked.

  • 5 years ago

    philtheforce

    checkmate the opponent

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    Archaic71: Nice stuff dozy, entertaining as always.  I too have learned to have some sport with the player that won't resign.  I might have to try the 8 knights game sometime . . .

    Thanks, Tex.  For the first few months I played with chess.com I found it frustrating that so many people didn't know when the game was over.  You don't often get an opportunity like the wall of pawns or the eight knights, but once in a while I get to post one of the games in my blog.  Since I never name losing opponents it doesn't hurt them but gives me a certain vindictive pleasure.

    The second game in "Through the Needle's Eye " was such a game and the guy who played it had already incurred my ire by refusing to reply when I wished him Good luck at the start of the game.  The play continued for 20-or-so moves beyond the finish of the diagrammed sequence but I enjoyed winning it the more for his obstinacy.

    Conjugations of irregular adjectives (if you can really conjugate an adjective): I am stubborn;  you are obstinate;  he is a pig-headed fool... Smile

  • 5 years ago

    Archaic71

    Nice stuff dozy, entertaining as always.  I too have learned to have some sport with the player that won't resign.  I might have to try the 8 knights game sometime . . .

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    NM GreenLaser: should be corrected to Gheorghiu and Browne

    Many thanks for that:  I hate making spelling errors.  I used to hate making typing errors, too, but since my fingers began their love affair with arthritis I have to be more careful.

  • 5 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    IMNOT = I'm not an IM. I also automatically have a GMNOT, but there's no play there as with I'm. In #3,  GMs Georgiou and Brown should be corrected to Gheorghiu and Browne. The BS I claimed was an accidental error. I have a BA and an MS, as well as numerous additional credits. I knew I had S somewhere.

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    NM GreenLaser: Hi Dozy, I actually have a BS and an IMNOT.

    You've got me!  I hesitate to ask, but what's an IMNOT?

    I was hesitating because I'm afraid it's a word like piecost and when I say, "What's a piecost?" you come back and tell me, "$3 with sauce. "

  • 5 years ago

    NM GreenLaser

    Hi Dozy, I actually have a BS and an IMNOT.

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    Jpatrick: I love it when my opponents won't resign a dead lost game.  I'll use the opportunity to engineer some kind of minor piece mate.

    Sometimes that can come unstuck.

    Two years ago, in the early days of chess.com, a guy who called himself PawnShover had an opponent who wouldn't give up and he decided to mate him with a knight.  Before doing that he moved his remaining pawns to the eighth rank and under-promoted each one to knight then arranged them around his king in close embrace.  The position looked like this:

    The problem was that, when he promoted the last pawn, a glitch in the program signalled that the game was drawn because of insufficient mating material.

    Regrettably, PawnShover hasn't played here since late 2007 and his opponent in this game hasn't played since January 2008.  You can see the whole game HERE if you like.

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    Tornadoofdoom:  Lmao

    Thanks Mr Doom Smile

  • 5 years ago

    Jpatrick

    I love it when my opponents won't resign a dead lost game.  I'll use the opportunity to engineer some kind of minor piece mate.

  • 5 years ago

    tornadofdoom

    Lmao

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    YeOldeWildman: I like this position! :)

    Well done, Mr Wildman.   I like your finish better too. 

    I had a couple of things in mind when I was playing the game.  One was that he might resign before I finished him off (which I was enjoying) the other was that, because it was a blitz game, I might actually manage to give him that stalemate he was hoping for.  So I wimped out and finished him off with the rook.

    Thanks for showing what might have been.  Smile

  • 5 years ago

    YeOldeWildman

    That was a fun romp!  I think you put the guy in the 5th game out of his misery a little too early and bypased the coolest grand finale:

     

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