Chess and Early Bishop Check

It is surorising in Chess the things that will be discovered. For example, moving the Bishop down to check the King during the opening. It seems like a powerful move. The bishop is out there, and the enemy King is checked within the first ten or so moves. Who is the best player now?

What is not so obvious until it becomes obvious is the downside of doing this. At the very least your Bishop gets threatened by a pawn and has to move back somewhere. Moving back to a good square for the Bishop is best. However you suddenly realise the enemy is now ahead of you in development.

Move your Bishop to the side and within a few moves you may end up losing your Bishop to an aggressive pawn or spiteful knight. Now you realize you wasted two or three moves from your own development only to lose your Bishop. Suddenly your game does not look so good and you work on a fix.

Seems like a good move, until you learn it is not.

Seems like a good move, until you learn it is not.

Growing beyond being cocky with my Bishop I now find one of my Knights being picked off and I can not retaliate because my Knight was hanging. That’s what happens from fixing my Bishop dilemma. Fix one weakness and almost immediately find another weakness to replace it with.

This reminds me of watching children who are just learning to play chess. They know the end goal is to attack the enemy King. The get a piece free from the back rank and charge down the board attacking the King. And they lose their piece.

Undaunted, they move out another piece from the back rank and repeat the process. Or worse for them, their enemy has sent a lone assassin down the board attacking their King. Now they have to figure out how to stop the piece from mating the King.

Some games, I feel like one of these children. For every puzzle or problem solved another rears its ugly head. Of course I do not know it exists until it happens in the moment. Sometime it is too strong a mistake to overcome in the moment.

I put up a good fight, but I am not usually strong enough to make up for the mistake I have discovered. Those few times the enemy across the board makes a move equally poor, and I am able to take advantage of it, we are whisked into the end game.

Of course my end game is not that strong either. It is hard to become experienced with the end game when I am pummeled in the middle game and never really see an end game. I understand now why serious players study the end game so much. Eventually the end game arrives for all of us.

I imagine chess players like more puzzles than just chess. Or perhaps, chess players are satisfied mainly with chess and play other puzzle games as a small diversion. No matter how strong you become there is always another problem to be solved. To make it even more interesting the stronger one becomes, the more complex the newly discovered problem becomes.

It is an easy matter to not send out your Bishop to make a silly check on the enemy King. When a player is much stronger, and an unknown in the moment problem arises, a player may have to rethink their whole game. Their tried and tested old standby approach has suddenly revealed some serious flaws. Someone has unceremoniously torn their game apart as they watch. Until the problem is no longer solvable within ones time and ability.

If this time ever happens for me, I hope people still enjoy Chess for what it provides.

Kid Learns Chess

I may have written about this before. If so maybe I did it better this time. The Kid was seven years old and and loved the Ninja Turtles. This was when the Ninja Turtles first made an appearance, as in cartoons. The Kid would watch one show after another, even though I found them pretty boring, he didn’t.

I did not see a lot of sense to the battles, and all the moves, but as mentioned he found them fascinating. It was Memorial Day if memory serves, the family was together and the chess board came out. There were a number of us who thought we were hot stuff on the chessboard.

Of those two or three of us were sure we were the best player in the family. The Kid played a few games and lost. It is pretty hard to win when you do not even know the pieces and how they move. But for a seven year old it wasn’t a bad attempt.

The Kid’s Grandma made sure he had a chess board at home to play with. No one thought any more about it. Chess for some reason is pretty boring to most people. I thought for him even though chess was fighting, it would not compete with the Ninja Turtles.

When the Christmas holidays rolled around and we were all together, the chess board was dusted off, and we started playing. The adults who thought they were the better players were going to show off their superior skills this time, we were serious now.

After the adults who wanted to played each other, the children were allowed to play the last winning adult. When it was The Kid’s turn, one of the adults fell under his overwhelming army. We all thought it was a funny mistake.

One after another the adults were losing. Some quickly, and some more slowly, but the outcome was the same. As I watched, The Kid seemed to get stuck in a position. I would have been stuck too, it seemed he was only making random moves with no sense of end point or continuity that shows there is a plan.

It was during these times I heard him whisper to himself, “What would the Ninja Turtles do?”

How funny I thought, Ninja Turtles were just a cartoon and their fighting had no basis in the real world. The Turtles would fight, win yet another victory. WHile I was daydreaming another adult was sent away to eat a big slice of humble pie.

Family being Family, we played again over New Years. There was a minor shift in who was the chess champion for another few months, though that was not all that happened. There was a champion who remained near the helm of the family chess hierarchy. All seven years of him.

This is where it happened. Everyone took turns watching one of the others get beat, waiting their turn. Everyone saw what looked like major blunders being committed by The Kid. Many of the watchers could not contain themselves, and had to comment on what they saw as poor moves.

Three or four times a game one comment or another would be set loose from someone watching the game in progress. I felt like the only rational one making comments. Mine was always the same. He beat you, you should not be giving him advice on how to play. No one listened of course.

Don't Teach those who beat you how to play chess

Don’t Teach those who beat you how to play chess

Easter arrived, and the family was together again. The chess board came out and the family started playing. It was different this time. The almost eight year old who mopped up the floor with us, was losing slowly every game. He lost to all but the worst of us.

I never heard him ask himself, “What would the Ninja Turtles do?”. Instead I watched him making family approved moves – that really did nothing to improve his position or worsen his opponents. He was now playing as poorly as we were.

I keep waiting to see the flashes of skill I saw him once have. I think he lost whatever spark chess had lit in him trying to play correctly. He is still a good player among the family, but no longer has the Ninja Turtles to guide his play and spark his creativity.

Recently I started to understand what The Kid had learned form the Ninja Turtles all those years ago. While I was watching the sword play, and listening to the shouting he was doing that and more. He was learning strategy while observing tactics.

Even though Ninja Turtles was a cartoon created for kids, it was made by adults. Adults who in their secret lives, were some sort of undercover Super Hero waiting to be released. Their Super Hero self was released under the guise of one or more of the Ninja Turtles.

I do not remember any of the Ninja Turtle battles I watched as I paid little attention back then. I now understand the concept and how it applies to the chess board. Attack until resistance is strong, then pull back an attack on another front. Repeat until you either win, crushing your opponent with overwhelming force, or your King is gallantly struggling to survive one more move on the march to fifty moves.

Strategy and Tactics may not be the be all, end all of chess mastery. But for us mere mortals, Strategy and Tactics are usually the game changer deciding who wins and who does not.

Improve Your Chess Play

Not a lot of meat to this post. I was playing chess engines on the net the other day, and this happened. I beat Stockfish which was set at default level 1, 1350 elo. I am leaning my chess is improving despite my lack of any interest of serious study through books, etc. I want chess to be fun. I have enough other serious parts of my life.

It was a rather silly game. I was fully expecting to get trashed as usual, when I noticed Stockfish made a rather poor tactical play and left its Queen unguarded in the middle of the board.

I pretended to start an attack down the left (A,1) side of the chess board, and took the Queen with a Knight, which I lost, but who cares? In that moment when I noticed the Queen was left unprotected for more than one move, I thought to myself, ‘I have a chance to win this game. It’s not playing as hard as I thought.’

If you have been following my chess exploits, or lack thereof, you know my goal was to break 1000 elo. I was about 850 elo at the time, so it seemed a daunting task. I am happy with what I have achieved. Especially as I only have limited time to play, and less time to study.

One thing I have learned however, is to quit thinking about whether any one move is the ‘right move’. I have been instead trying to find the move that seems to be the strongest and does something. Something may be development, protect another pawn or piece, or poses a new potential threat to the enemy.

Don’t you be afraid to make non standard moves. As long as they are not weak moves, they may prove to turn the tide in a game you are in. If the move does not work, hopefully you understand why your move did not work as planned. Modify your move, and try it again.

If you are starting out in chess, and are sitting at 800 or 900 elo, don’t get frustrated and give up. You only know what you know, and you can only play within your scope of knowledge. While I am far from being able to say I play chess well, I certainly play better than when I started to learn how to play properly. You too will play better chess in time.

Of course this is another far from pretty checkmate, but I’ll take it.

Never thought I would see this result!

Never thought I would see this result!