Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Article: The Art of Flagging in Chess

Welcome to my discussion of flagging in chess. I will be primarily talking about flagging in online chess. Since flagging occurs very rarely in over-the-board (OTB) chess, I will only mention it in passing. First of all, what is flagging? A 'flag' is literally claiming that your opponent has forfeited on time. 'Flag' can have a slightly different meaning, which is to play to win on time. I will be talking about the latter (although it is normally discussed as 'flagging' or in the past tense, 'I flagged him').

This only comes into play if your opponent is low on time. The typical flagging technique is just to play normal moves or possibly more careful/safe moves in the hope that your opponent runs out of time. Of course, this should only be done if there is no increment, as otherwise your opponent can acquire a good amount of time back very quickly and possibly exploit your imperfect play.

Flagging in Internet/Online Chess

Some online players believe that flagging is disrespectful and will even throw profanity at you if they become the victim of it. My personal view is that flagging is a perfectly legitimate technique to resort to if you cannot match your opponent in the position on the board. I am backed up by both Kasparov and the Internet Chess Club (ICC) help files. Kasparov, in the press conference after winning the last game on time against his old rival Karpov (in their match in Valencia, 2009), said that he would have preferred to win by playing the games out, but "the clock is also part of the game"... Click here to access the rest of "The Art of Flagging in Chess".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Article: Chess Ratings

Welcome to my discussion of chess ratings. Today, I want to take a look at a number of ratings systems.

Firstly, what is a chess rating? I am often compelled to explain this when I talk to my non-chess-attuned friends. Chess ratings are a way to judge the strength of a player; the rating is comprised of a number, and the higher the number, the stronger a player is estimated to be.

FIDE Rating

The FIDE rating (also known as Elo, after Arpad Elo, creator of the rating system) is the international standard for judging the strength of a player. In Australia, where I live, this is the only rating that technically "matters", as it is the only system that can earn you titles.

The highest rating ever achieved under this system is 2851, by 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov. At the time of writing, only five players have ever broken the 2800 barrier.

I was already quite experienced when I acquired by first FIDE rating, which was 2029. Some players only get a FIDE rating when they are already grandmaster standard, whereas others get it very early and annoyingly, very low... (Click link for the full article)

Click here to access the rest of "Chess Ratings".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Article: XiangQi in Comparison to "Western chess"

XiangQi, also known as Chinese chess, is a two-player board game similar to Western chess (sometimes called international chess), chaturanga, janggi and shogi. The modern form of Xiangqi originated in China and is therefore commonly referred to as Chinese chess in English.

In a 2005 report, Professor David H. Li proposed that the reason for the remarkable success of Chinese players in Western chess is because they are experienced in XiangQi, the combative and fast Chinese version of the game.

According to the professor, "There is no question that XiangQi and Western chess are different. Clearly, there are different moves and rules, but their underlying structure is similar - which is to grasp the spatial relationship. Spatial relationship, that is another way of talking about the “manoeuvrability ratio”. In relationship to the degree a game's spatial manoeuvrability increases, its difficulty increases proportionately, perhaps geometrically or even exponentially. Between XiangQi and Western chess, the former has a higher manoeuvrability ratio, thus it is more difficult. Consequence: When one is accustomed to playing a game with a higher maneuverability ratio, one has an advantage in playing a game with a lower manoeuvrability ratio. Moreover XiangQi introduces synergy into your thinking process and playing style. By broadening your horizon, you start to think more creatively; by improving your grasp of spatial relationship, you are visualizing more dynamically; and by deepening your analytical skill, you play more imaginatively... (Click link for full article)

Click here to access the rest of "XiangQi".

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Article: Strategies At the Board

Welcome to my article on strategies at the chessboard. Today, I want to go through some strategies that you can use over-the-board.

Battling Fatigue and Blunders

Tiredness is the most common cause of mistakes, particularly one-move blunders. Mental exhaustion affects everyone. It is said that well known English GM Michael Adams once fell asleep at the chessboard for 15 minutes and simply woke up and started playing again as if nothing had happened. So how should you combat fatigue? A grandmaster once said that "a brain without sugar is not a brain". My personal opinion is that eating or drinking something is the best option. Going to the bathroom to wash your face has a short-term affect, but I find that I quickly become tired again. I like to drink something at the board, like fruit juice or a milk product.

American IM Jeremy Silman gave a number of suggestions including chocolate (following Serbian GM Svetozar Gligorić), apple juice (in the footsteps of American GM Robert James "Bobby" Fischer), bananas and ginseng (or ginseng tea). Of course, chocolate may be too sugary for some people and Silman also warns against dried fruit.

Of course, you're going to find yourself in plenty of situations where you make a major blunder. It is often a human tendency to immediate realise that your previous move was a blunder only after you have played it. This is because the mind resurfaces and re-evaluates after you make your move. It's impossible to avoid this in all situations, but you can probably predict the type of position where this might happen and think extra carefully before you play your move.

If you have made a blunder, try not to dwell on it too much. The best way to continue, in my opinion, is to keep a "poker face" - look as if nothing has happened. Kasparov is an exception to my suggestion - he was known to have openly shown his disgust when he realised that he had made a very bad move. Of course, showing this sort of emotion immediately communicates to the opponent that he may have a good move, which is why, for the vast majority of players, I recommend the poker face approach... (Click link for full article)

Click here to access the rest of "Strategies At the Board".

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Article: Introduction to Internet Chess Club

Welcome to my introduction to the Internet Chess Club.

The Internet Chess Club is one of the world's largest online chess clubs and by strength, it is in the top two of the strongest chess clubs in the world. ICC features the ability to play opponents 24 hours a day, a trackable rating system, lectures from grandmasters, tournaments and live coverage of international events.

Today, I want to go through some of the basic features of ICC to get you started. Unless you already have membership (which is unusual since you won't be reading this article), you can get a free trial of ICC. The 7-day trial gives you full features of ICC.

Now that you've registered, there are two main interfaces you can download - BlitzIn and Dasher. I personally have a preference for the BlitzIn interface, since it has a cleaner interface and provides excellent facilities to accommodate fast chess. I find the Dasher interface a bit clumsy when moving the pieces on the chessboard. However, Dasher has one significant advantage in that you can use the chess engine Crafty or Junior (the latter only available if you have purchased it) to analyse your game afterwards. Since I pretty much only play 5-minute games, analysing my games is not that important... (Click link for full article)

Click here to access the rest of "Introduction to Internet Chess Club".

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Article: Internet Chess Techniques

Welcome to my article on Internet Chess Techniques. Today, I want to go through a number of techniques related to online play. Although some of these tricks are not highly practical, they are fun to use. I will use my Internet Chess Club account to play through examples.


Premove is a function available on many high-quality chess servers, such as PlayChess or ICC. It allows you to play a move automatically regardless of what the opponent plays, unless it is illegal. The server automatically plays the move for you, taking 0.1 seconds off your clock. Although it's fairly easy to get burned by premove, it will provide you with countless wins and draws from losing positions, so it's advantages far outweigh its shortcomings. Below is an example of a 1-minute game in which I employ premove to save a lot of time. It ultimately helps me win the game because otherwise I would have lost on time... (Click link for full article)

Click here to access the new "Internet Chess Techniques" article.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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