Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis

Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis

Dvoretsky's latest book on the art of prophylaxisThere is always a dearth of quality chess material for training once you climb up the ELO ladder. When my students join they are raw beginners but later I find it difficult to set them challenging tasks as they slowly master the techniques. And therefore I keep looking out for new avenues for training them with. Today I have a reason to be thrilled. I have seen Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis that seems to have come after a long hiatus. Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis is something that most of chess books have been lacking and that is Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources: Developing Preventive Thinking which is by the way the title of Dvoretsky’s new book. 

Victor Kortchnoi once said with great insight If you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck after every game.

So understanding your opponent’s next move could be or what agenda he is trying to accomplish, is one of the most important core skills required climb up the ELO ladder. It is what makes a difference between a good chess player and a strong chess master.

The reason why many students stagnate is because they are aware of most of the direct methods of attack and will thrive in many a tactical melee, but give them a position where they are at the receiving end of the opponents’ blows, or where the tactics are not yet present on the board, they will be all at sea.


What is special about Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis ?

What is prophylaxis in chess?

I have a 1200 player who attacks ferociously with tactical claws that will tear any ripe position apart. One day when we played a game that was steered into positional waters, he was stuck for 2 hours in getting the best move! I had to reset the clock many times as he was floundering for a move and in exasperation he asked me (after having reset the clock for the 4th time) – “What is the move I must play here, Master?” – to which all I could say was “I think your best move is to resign as I myself do not know how you are going to disentangle from your mess”.

That is the power of prophylactic thinking for you.*

Dvoretsky is known for advocating the art of prophylaxis as a key to mastery in the higher levels of chess playing arena. To put it in his own words (Secrets of positional play), Prophylaxis or prophylactic thinking is “the habit of constantly asking yourself what the opponent wants to do, what he would play if it were him to move, the ability to find an answer to this question and to take account of it in the process of coming to a decision.”

Coming to the book under review – Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a collection of problems with underlying theme of prophylaxis. 

Dvoretsky is very famous for his classical books that are considered as must-read for those beyond 2000 ELO upto 2400 ELO. In this book, Dvoretsky embarks on a classical but neglected training on this theme, with high-quality training material for independent analysis. 


Contents of the book – on the subtle art of prophylaxis

Each chapter has a introductory theoretical section followed by plenty of exercises, from easy to difficult. Each chapter begins with a small explanation on the chapter’s theme, and this is followed by positions for solving with their solutions.

This book consists of four chapters, all dealing with identifying what your opponent’s next move or moves could be. They are:

  1. Pay Attention to Your Opponent’s Resources (180 problems).
  2. The Process of Elimination (106 problems).
  3. Traps (36 problems)
  4. Prophylactic Thinking (154 problems)

To summarize –

The best part is that among the approximately 500 exercises, there are opening, middlegame and endgame positions. This provides you with challenges in searching for a move and calculating variations as per the given pointers, that will help you at any stage of the game, be it the opening or the middlegame or the Endgame scenario.

The crux of the book is the solutions offered for the training position which are very detailed, as is typically expected of Dvoretsky’s work. Throughout the book, the author guides us by leading us through the schematic thinking for a solution in each position, to show how a player can come to the right choice of move at the board.


Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a must buy as it comes from the master himself. I suggest going through this book with your student if you are a Coach or Trainer – this will open up a few hidden insights in his/her chess brain.

*I keep harping on positional play many times and prophylaxis is my main forte while playing with some upstart students, as it is a complex concept. And whenever they start watering in the mouth with an upcoming tactical warfare and an impending win over me, I pull the plug, and play positionally to get the grip back. That way I enjoy the looks on their face when they hit a wall. This actually makes them understand that tactics has to coupled with positional concepts for chess mastery.

Order Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis from the Bookdepository if you are in the UK.

 



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Power of the common Pawn – Chennai (Tiger) Express

Power of the common Pawn – Chennai (Tiger) Express

Power of the common Pawn – Chennai (Tiger) Express

 

Power of the common PawnThis was one brilliant game of technique played by Vishy Anand, that shows how positional understanding is the foundation of all tactics. Its not often you get to see a game that literally keeps you mesmerized. There was some inefficiency by Wesley So but that does not take the credit away from Anand. A champion has to be brave and this is what Anand demonstrated – he showed the Power of the common Pawn today in Shamkir 2015.

The 2nd Vugar Gashimov Memorial took place in the Heydar Aliyev Center in Shamkir from 17th to 26th April 2015. The participating players were: Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Adams Michael and Mamedov Rauf.

Magnus Carlsen won the 2nd Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerhaijan with 7/9 a point clear of Viswanathan Anand.  However Vishy produced some of his best games here and notable is this one as told earlier.

Carlsen finished a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand who had an interesting event. Anand was also impressive as he remained undefeated, though he also had ample chances to win against his arch nemesis Carlsen in the first round.

We can learn how chess is played from up-there. The perspectives are sure to raise your understanding and your elo too. A game that I liked a lot is shown below.

A brutal technical win over Wesley So by the Chennai Tiger Vishy Anand. It was all about endgame finesse and understanding. And the Power of the common man, er… the common pawn.

[Event “Vugar Gashimov Mem 2015”]
[Site “Shamkir AZE”]
[Date “2015.04.21”]
[Round “5.2”]
[White “Anand, Viswanathan”]
[Black “So, Wesley”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C77”]
[WhiteElo “2791”]
[BlackElo “2788”]
[Annotator “Kish”]
[PlyCount “89”]
[EventDate “2015.04.17”]
[SourceDate “2015.02.07”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. Nc3
d6 9. a3 Nb8 10. Ng5 $5 Nc6 {[%csl Gd4,Rg5][%cal Rc6d4,Gf3g5,Yd4f3] Taking
advantage of teh fact that the Knight on f3 is missing in action albiet
temporarily.} 11. Ba2 Nd4 12. Ne2 {Exchanging the Opponent’s active piece.}
Nxe2+ 13. Qxe2 h6 {The courage of a chess player. A very intuitional sacrifice
(that happens only when you look at the position from a bird’s eye view) and
one that is purely positional rather than tactical. Wonder what the engines
must be thinking about this move. It is what I call a human-like move!} 14. f4
$5 hxg5 (14… exf4 {seems to be an idea for another day. However I think
Anand must have simply moved back the Knight to f3.} 15. Nxf7 (15. Bxf4 hxg5
16. Bxg5 $19 {Seems to be bad for White.}) (15. Nh3 $13 Bxh3 16. gxh3) 15…
Rxf7 16. Bxf7+ Kxf7 17. Bxf4 {Nothing tangible for White again. So there seems
to be a lot of ways where Black could have kept White subdued}) 15. fxg5 {
Pawns on the 5th rank and beyond, are powerful and work almost like a piece in
terms of strength. That is what makes a player stand out when he can
understand the fluid nature of how the power-balance can shift subtly.} Ng4 $6
{What is that Knight doing?} 16. g6 {There goes the battering Ram! This pawn
is on steroids and seems unstoppable! That is the ‘Power of the common pawn’.}
Bg5 $5 (16… Nh6 $5) 17. h3 $1 {At first sight this looks like a move that is
kicking the Knight. Look deeply and you will see that the h-pawn is raring to
join its friend on g6! This li’l fella is planning for the future!} (17. Bxf7+
Rxf7 18. gxf7+ Kf8 {gets nothing for White!}) 17… Bxc1 18. Raxc1 Nh6 19. Qh5
$1 {The Queen comes in for the kill. A menacing move that takes adv of the
power of White’s active pieces.} Be6 20. Bxe6 fxe6 21. g4 {There is that pawn
rush to attck and soften Black’s fortress. Poor Black is helpless even though
he is a piece up.} c6 $6 {Anand thought this was a mistake during the press
conference as I guess it is not doing anything about the impending aftermath.}
22. Rxf8+ Qxf8 23. Rf1 Qe7 24. g5 Rf8 25. gxh6 Rxf1+ 26. Kxf1 Qf8+ 27. Ke2 $1 {
No more checks!} gxh6 {Subtle pawn play by White. Conversion from this
position is an entire game altogether. It is here that Anand had to shift
gears and play delicate strokes. No mad rushing here.} 28. Qg4 Qf6 29. h4 d5
30. h5 d4 31. b4 $1 {Bringing the point home. This requires finesse on the
part of the White player.} Kg7 32. Qf3 Qe7 33. Kd1 Kg8 34. Qf2 Kg7 35. c3 dxc3
36. Kc2 Qc7 37. Qc5 Kg8 38. Qe3 a5 39. Qh3 axb4 40. Qxe6+ Kf8 41. axb4 Qa7 42.
Kxc3 Qa3+ 43. Kc2 Qa4+ 44. Qb3 Qa7 45. d4 1-0

 

Never under-estimate the Power of the common Pawn !


Further Reading –


Kish Kumar is a passionate Chess player and coach at Golden Chess Centre and loves teaching the various aspects of Chess. When not involved with Chess he is busy life-coaching! Connect with him here 🙂

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

 

secrets of positional chess training

In this series of posts I will be discussing about the secrets of positional chess training and why you must care for it as much as tactics and endgames. For those of you who have not read my article – An excellent positional sacrifice, I strongly recommend you to read it before proceeding further. 

How to increase positional chess knowledge?

if you are below 1600 FIDE rating, I would suggest focusing solely on tactics, tactics and tactics, and everything I’m about to say is not applicable until you’ve improved more.

So, if you’re over 1600, and mostly satisfied with your tactics, but too often you end up having no clue what to play next. Then what?

Now you need to know about about the imbalances in chess – how they affect your game, and how to take advantage of them by manipulating the factors.

This means learning about endgames, as having the favorable positional advantages will usually help converting into a favorable endgame.

This is a lengthy topic, far too large to explain in one article; fortunately, there are good books and resources out there. The best books for learning the basics of both of endgames and the middlegame are by Jeremy Silman.

Harvesting the positional weaknesses present in the opponent’s position requires deep strategic understanding.

What is Strategic Chess Understanding?

This strategic understanding comprises of two elements:

  1. Awareness of positional factors such as effective piece placements, quality of pawn structure and safety of the King
  2. Generation of ideas or plans to make use of these factors.

Foundation of positional chess training

Here, the first step is to build a base of understanding. That is where the part of a coach comes in and also a good criteria how a good coach can be identified. The base of understanding has to be built from the basics of endgames.

Start with

Pawn Structures

King and pawn endings,

Rook endings

Minor piece endings

Queen endings

and then the meat of the middle game, which comprises of

Chess dynamics.


Secrets of positional chess training – Combination of hard and smart work

When we talk of Chess dynamics, thematic attacks and configurations are what an aspiring player needs to be given.

I am referring to an aspiring player who has mastered the basic tactical motifs like pin, skewer, fork etc.

At this stage he is like a aspiring chef who has just learnt the magic of making a tasty recipe; his true test would come when he is able to juggle with the resources present in the refrigerator, that too with a sudden unexpected onset of guests to his home.

Here confidence also plays a vital role in bridging the gap between rote-knowledge and skill-knowledge. The trick here is to convert rote-knowledge into skill based on repetition and familiarity, by constant practical applications.

Merely knowing how to bake a cake doesn’t make one a good baker. Doing it properly when time demands makes one an expert; similarly in chess winning consistently and properly, makes one a GM.

In later articles I will be expanding on many techniques to accentuate this bridging of knowledge. So I request you to follow me on regular basis.

Pillars of positional chess training

The next step is to build familiarity by constant revision and repetition of information. This is the most hallowed part of chess training regimen.

It is here where many people stumble, fall or stop altogether. Some players skip this entire process due to wrong assumptions and false guidance. I cannot stress enough the importance of this revision process and there are many ways it can be done.

For example, take the case of tabiya’s, when we first learn a new plan of attacking the castled king or mating the the uncastled king we tend to look at a few model games. The trick is not only about remembering this plan but also being able to execute when favorable configurations arise on the board.

And doing so also requires a confidence which needs to be built slowly over time.

Ready for the test drive?

The final stage is executing a move taking into consideration the above discussed factors under test conditions such as time pressure situations or high-stake scenario. This is the true test of chess understanding.

Obviously, the initial routines are difficult and test our dedication. And this is what separates the masters from the amateurs.

⇒ Keeping yourself motivated – Separating the wood from the trees!

Part 2 of this article will discuss in detail the various aspects of Positional Chess and related glossary.


The Author Kish Kumar is a coach at Golden Chess Centre and is passionate about teaching Chess to beginners, intermediate level and advanced players.

 


 

Using the Opponent’s force (a la Judo) in your chess games

Using the Opponent’s force (a la Judo) in your chess games

Using Opponent’s Force

My first memory on seeing this  is Judo. It does an amazing job of using your opponents force and weight (damage from the throw), then adding in your force to damage your opponent.  This is what happened in the game.

Judo (Japanese: 柔道, jūdō; “gentle way”) is a martial art and combat sport, which originated in Japan. Judo, now primarily a sport, is a system of unarmed combat. The objective is to throw, pin, or cause the opponent to yield by applying pressure to arm joints or the neck. Judo techniques are intended to turn an opponent’s force to one’s advantage, rather than confronting it directly. Rituals surrounding the practice of judo promote an attitude of calm readiness and confidence – Source

It is all about maximum results with least effort, and simple chess is all about it. The key is to react with quiet consciousness, not blind raging urges.

Please go over the game slowly and see where my moves appear strange to you.

These would be the points you have to understand.

So what exactly happened in this game?

I did not do anything but only used my opponent’s own urge to ‘do something’, against him. I am a fan of Petrosian and Karpov.I always think what they would do in such a position.

The reason I am showing this game is because I feel that beginners and intermediate players usually are never taught to play as per the needs of the position or how to change gears based on the opponent’s moves.

Here when I say ‘opponent’s moves’ and let me clarify that I refer to the beginners urge to try and dominate – usually obvious in the first 10-15 moves.


Coming to the topic of how to train this method of using your opponent’s force against him, I would suggest – always sitting with a stronger player and asking him to block your attacking attempts by playing ferociously, and then see how he can withstand your onslaught. Then go over that game and see where you rushed in. All these moments will be our learning notes.

In this experiment you will see where you are lacking, like lack of patience or lack of proper visualization + calculation in critical positions or both.

One more method would be to slowly go over games by players like Karpov, Capablanca or Petrosian and see how you are able to find their moves. Every time they make a move that appears difficult to understand, you need to pause and meditate.

That is all for now friends! Hope to hear from you soon – if you are in Facebook why not join me there and like my page ?


 

Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for dedicated and upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai.

Get in touch here.

Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight – Part – 2

Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight – Part – 2

Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight

We were discussing Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight in our previous post. In this part – Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight – Part – 2, I am going to show you a classic game played between Gligoric and Trifunovic in which Knight is proved to be superior than a Bishop. This is somewhat an achievement!

This caught my eye as something that deserves a separate post as a ready reckoner for this topic.

Which is stronger – Bishop or Knight

Gligoric vs Trifunovic

.

You can post your doubts, if any!

 

An Excellent Positional Sacrifice

An Excellent Positional Sacrifice

Excellent Positional SacrificeLet us look at a position that shows an excellent positional sacrifice. Such examples help us understand the concept of a positional sacrifice – which means giving away a higher value piece for the enemy’s lower value piece to attain a good advantage for a win or at times a draw (in case the game seems lost).

Excellent Positional Sacrifice

At first sight, White’s chances are preferable. He has two bishops, and although the one at b2 is passive, it is free to come into play via c1. Black’s pawn majority on the queen-side is ephemeral (the move b4 doesn’t give anything in particular), whereas White is ready for activity in the centre.

He can first strengthen his position by the advance of the h-pawn, but White’s main aim is the e5-e6 breakthrough. This threat is highly unpleasant and it is not altogether clear how to combat it.

But on a close examination of the placing of the black pieces and the features of the position, it will be noticed that its evaluation could change if the black knight were able to occupy the d5 – square.

Here the knight not only blocks the d4 – pawn, but also takes away some good squares from the white pieces (for example, f4 from the queen).

However, it is not so easy for the knight to reach d5: for this the rook has to move from e7.

For example, 25…Ra7!? – after 26. e6 f6 27. Bf3 Ne7 everything is still far from clear; in any event, there is no apparent way of forcibly exploiting the powerful passed pawn.

Black retains control of the light squares, and even if the pawn should advance to e7, the g6 – bishop can come to the rescue. But this would have been falling in with White’s plans!

And Black makes a move which many players, unfamiliar with this games, would consider a blunder and at which the computer would ‘laugh its heart out’ if it had one!.

 In this position, Black played 25… Re6!!.
The move is indeed incredible: the rook simply place itself en-prise. For the sake of what? In order to block the advance of the pawn and also to open the way for the knight to d5.

Let us ponder over the position and ask us ourselves: 

Why should a rook be stronger than a minor piece here?

After all, a rook requires open lines, it needs to have something to attack, whereas minor pieces require strong points and pawn support.

In the given instance there is a shortage of open lines, and it is no longer possible to prevent the knight from reaching d5, where it will be impregnable. In addition, from d5 the knight will be attacking the c3 – pawn, and if the white bishop does not manage to switch to d2, it will remain ‘vegetating’ at b2.

It is practically impossible to break Black’s light square defenses; white simply does not have sufficient resources to do so.

Thus, when this staggering move is made on the board, we can understand perfectly well the reasons that induced Black to give up the exchange, and we can grasp the deep strategic meaning of what has occurred.

After 25… Re6, White played 26. a4. An attempt, by creating tension on the queen-side, to open lines and exploit the exchange advantage. The game was agreed to a draw after 41 moves.

This game featuring an excellent Positional Sacrifice was played between S. Reshevsky and T. Petrosian, Candidates Tournament, Zurich 1953.