Hastings. Just the name itself is to evoke a chess tournament of somewhat legendary proportions - on a par historically with Wijk Aan Zee. However there’s no doubt that the tournament has gone downhill in recent years. Go back to the mid nineties and the early 2000s and the tournament was still a fairly strong event attracting strong grandmasters on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and the most recent edition was the weakest I can ever remember.
You can put up a lot of reasons but the primary one is money. If you put up enough cash, then the stars will come, after all they still do to Wijk Aan Zee - hardly the most glamorous location either. And the problem is that Hastings as a town isn’t doing that great, money wise, so they don’t have money to put into the event.
Another candidates tournament is rolling around - Berlin 2018, with many of the usual suspects involved. The question arises: who is favourite going into the event?
There’s little question for me that Aronian is now the outstanding favourite to win that tournament and qualify to play Carlsen. It just feels like his time. He’s just got married, he’s just had one of the best years of his life chesswise and from a personal point of view.
To start with I’m going to concentrate on British chess - in the second part I’m going to be looking at more international events like the FIDE World Cup.
Luke McShane had a great chance to win the British and only fell at the final hurdle in the playoffs. It would be cruel to say that he’s become the “Jimmy White” of the British championships, but there’s also no doubt that it’s somewhat strange he hasn’t won the tournament by now given his evident strength.
A word that tends to often be overused when describing sporting collapses. However there’s no doubt that something strange happened to me in the last round of the British championships at Llaundudno. Whether it was choking, or fatigue, or a combination of those two I’m not really sure.
I do think that it’s not a coinicidence that the four who got into the play off were all under 35. Ok, three of them were the top three seeds, but you get the point.
Recently I started to think about why the late chess coach Mark Dvoretsky, who passed away recently, was so well acclaimed as a teacher of the game. It struck me that the real reason was that Dvoretsky wasn’t afraid to talk about some of the most difficult themes that crop up in chess.
It would have been easy for him to grind out a living talking about the sort of subjects that most gravy-trainers tend to fall back on, like showing off some wonderful attacking game featuring a stonking combination at the end, while showering such games with the usual platitudes and cliches.
But no, Dvoretsky had a real love of chess which shone through in his writing, and loved to get down to the nitty-gritty, and try and uncover the engine room of chess and the process that players go through when they consider their moves.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
is a typically profound quote from Socrates. And exactly the same logic can be applied to chess. Quite simply you must analyse your own games if you want to improve. Only that way will you be able to identify where you have been going wrong, what mistakes you have been making and what to do about them.
The Philidor defence is one of Black’s most solid defences to 1.e4. He aims to hunker down with as flexible position as possible and expand later. Recently this defence was given a boost by the “Black Lion” (I thought this might be something from one of David Attenboroughs programmes), a rather scary sub-variation that has been extolled by no less than the Ginger GM himself.
However, I wish to circumvent Black’s usual way of playing by recommending a system involving an early g4. This system is risky but it does have the benefit of immediately giving Black huge problems to solve. The whole idea of playing g4 in the Philidor I believe was first popularised by the ever inventive Latvian Alexey Shirov, who also created a similar idea against the Semi-Slav.
As we are on the eve of another world chess championship match, it seems like a pertinent time to talk about the oldest former world champion still alive, Boris Spassky, who was born in 1937. The reason I find Spassky interesting is because he’s the only world champion I’ve ever played. Before I played him I thought “yes, great player but nothing really more than that”.
Editors note: Danny sent us this article a long time ago, it’s my fault it wasn’t published earlier!
Spassky was always considered perhaps the first great “universal player”. During our analysis I got the distinct impression that his instincts lay in the area of attacking the opponents king, so really to be considered such an all-round talent was a great compliment.
In this article I want to look at some of the earliest games of Spassky, and try and explain how he was able to use these attacking skills at an early stage in the game.
I got a good response to my request for chess players to send me their games to try and look at some of their more obvious mistakes, and try to analyse the reasons for those mistakes.
A guy called Gerben sent me a game on Twitter, and (GM!) Bogdan Lalic also sent a selection of his games. I’ll look at their games later. But in this article I’m going to be looking at the games of Eric Gittrich. Eric is a 1500 plus rated player from the US and is very honest about some of his losses, coming out with comments like “I folded like a cheap suit”, and “I knew I was better but was intimidated by his rating”.
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