Thursday, June 14, 2007

The King's Gambit, where to start ?

Some time ago I decided to start playing the King's Gambit. I don't know why exactly I'm so attracted by this opening. Probably it's tactical nature, the wild attacks, the rich history, or some great Andersson &Morphy games I looked at recently... .

Since I'm trying to improve my tactical skills it seems like a good idea to adopt the king's gambit. BUT since I'm also trying to improve my rating, I certainly don't think it's a good idea to start playing the king's gambit unprepared... .

So learning the king's gambit, where do I start ? What do I have to know/learn before I can use the opening in serious rated games ?

Last week I bought "The King's Gambit For The Creative Aggressor" from Thomas Johansson. I started playing through the first chapter yesterday,but I must admit, I am overwhelmed by the massive amount of variations.

So for the moment I think the best approach is :
  • Understanding the key concepts (fast piece development & nice pawn center in exchange for the sacrificed pawn on f4, (half)open f-line, attack on f7, ...)
  • Getting familiar with the main KG-lines without losing myself in the endless list of variations.
  • Play the KG in blitz & analyse the opening afterwards

My first serious rated OTB game is in september (new start of club championship),so I have some time to get familiar with this new opening.

By the way, I'm working on my first circle through level 4. I'm advancing very very very slow. The problems are a lot harder compared to level 3. Yesterday I spent 75 minutes on 5 problems. Compared to Tempo's 5 days per problem this is still lighting fast, but still, I'm not used to this slow problem solving thing... ;-)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's next ?

I finally finished my last loop through levels 2 and 3. I'm quite happy with my score (98,0% for level 2, 97,8% for level 3), so now it's time to start with level 4 ! I think I will do my first loop very slow (10 problems each day), so there will be some time left for other chess related things :

  • Opening repertoire (Kings Gambit, GPA, Nf6 Scandinavian, Dutch Defense).
  • Study master games
  • Endgames (Silman's Complete Endgame Course + Polgars Endgame Brick)
  • Positional play (reassess your chess)
  • play chess (FICS + FICGS) and analyze my games
  • Last but not least, reading the blogs of the other knights. Especially Tempo's research on the thinking / learning process is very interesting.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


The position below is from a game I played on FICS last week (I played the black pieces, black to move and win). I eventually won the game but I missed a nice mate:

Solution : 22 ... Qf2! 23 Rg1 Rd1 24 Rxd1 Qxg2#

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tactics Update

I finished my third circle on level 3 (296 problems) today :

Level 3, circle 1 : 84,5%
Level 3, circle 2 : 90,9%
Level 3, circle 3 : 96,0%

So what's next ?
I'm gonna do one more loop through level 2 & level 3, when that's finished I'm finally gonna start with level 4...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tactics Rule

I won my OTB game (club championship) yesterday. I won a piece with a tactic (which I'm a bit proud of ;-) ) :

Black to move (I play the black pieces).

I wanted to bring my rook to e2, so I first looked at the Bh5 - Bg6 manoeuvre to exchange the white bishop on d3. I realised this plan was too slow and suddenly noticed that I could bring my rook to e2 directly ! I spent a lot of time calculation all the variations, the final conclusion : white will lose a piece.

So I played Re2. My opponent gave me a strange look, had a long think, and finally played Qf1. I played Rxd2, my opponent immediately answered with Bc1 (he looked at me like "you made a big mistake, I'm winning your rook"). My heart stopped beating for a few seconds (his bishop pins my rook on my queen, I missed this move in my calculations). After a few seconds I realised his move was not as dangerous as it looked, I just had to exchange the rooks and move my queen away. So I did, I played Rxd1, he played Qxd1, I moved my queen to f6, and I was a piece up... .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tactics Update

I finished my first circle on level 3 today. Compared to level 2, the problems become trickier (I scored 84,5%). An example (white to move) :

I immediately saw the discovered check which allows me to exchange my bishop for the black queen. My two options were Rd5+ and Rb7+. I couldn't find a difference between the two moves, so I thought both of them would be correct (Rd5+/Rb7+, Qxd7, Rxd7).

As you probably guessed by now, Rd5+ / Rb7+ is not correct. I totally missed Rf5+, Kd4, Rf4+ (winning the black queen, keeping the bishop).

I'll keep repeating it : When you see a good move, look for a better one... .

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Chess Efficiency

This position is taken from a game I played in an OTB tournament yesterday (I play the black pieces, white played 27 Qxf3) :

I played 27 ... Be4, winning his queen. My opponent didn't resign and it took me 30 more minutes to win the game. After the game a guy from my club showed me a missed mate in 4 on move 27 :

27 ... h3+ whatever white tries, he will be mated.

So I won the game, but I didn't finish him off in the most efficient way. I had to play 14 more moves (exchanging rooks & missing a few more matting possibilities) until he resigned.

So it's true after all : when you see a good move, look for a better one !

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Opening Repertoire For White

Behold my current opening repertoire with white :

  • 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 The Bishops opening (main line 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nc6 3 d3)

  • 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 The Closed Sicilian

  • 1 e4 e6/c6/d5/... Improvise ;-) (since 95% of my opponents play e5 or c5 I'm concentrating on these lines only)

I play these openings for a year now, and I realised that this is the wrong repertoire for me to play. The bishops opening and the closed sicilian often lead me to closed / positional games while I'm actually looking for open / tactical games.

So I think it's time for a change. These are the lines I have in mind :

  • 1 e4 e5 2 f4 The Kings Gambit

  • 1 e4 c5
    • 2 f4 The Grand Prix Attack
    • 2 d4 The Morra Gambit

I'm pretty sure about the Kings Gambit, I think this opening will always offer me a tactical game. I still have to choose between the GPA and the Morra Gambit. I think both lines will give me a tactical game with attacking chances.

Is there anyone out there with practical experience with the GPA or the Morra Gambit ? I'm still looking for a good book or internet resource on the Kings Gambit / GPA / Morra Gambit, any suggestions ?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tactics Update

I finished the fourth and last circle on level 2 today. I solved all the problems (297) in 90 minutes and scored 98,3%, so I think I'm ready to move on to level 3 !

Level 2, circle 1 : 90,9%
Level 2, circle 2 : 94,3%
Level 2, circle 3 : 95,3%
Level 2, circle 4 : 98,3%

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Plan for improvement, part 2 : play chess

I'm fully convinced of the fact that playing lots of games is an essential part of chess training. It's important to learn to use your tactical skills in real game situation. For some reason this isn't as evident as it sounds (for me it certainly isn't). An example :

This position is from a game I played on FICS today, white's last move was Bb2. If this position would be a tactical problem I wouldn't hesitate and play Bxf3 (you can't even call this a tactic, it's just taking the exchange). Believe it or not, but for some reason I did not see this in the actual game. When he moved his bishop I only thought "oh no, he's attacking my bishop, I have to move it!". So that's what I did, I played Ba5. He then played Rg3+, I lost the g7 pawn, his rook is on the 7th rank, the beginning of the end... .

So beside my tactical training I'm trying to play at least one slow game per week. I'm playing these games on FICS (SD/30) or at my chess club (club tournament, time control 40/120 + 1 hour KO). I'm analysing each game, hoping to learn from my mistakes. I'll try to post some of my best games / blunders on this blog.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Plan for improvement, part 1 : Tactics

Chess improvement, where do I start ? One thing's certain : tactics are the foundation of chess. Since I'm far from a tactical genius (I don't drop pieces all the time, but my game analysis often reveals missed (simple) tactical opportunities) it seems like a good idea to start with tactics, tactics, tactics and some more tactics.

I'm using the Brunia / Van Wijgerden books for tactical training( For those who don't know the books, the TASC Chess Tutor (TCT) borrows its problems from these books. The past year I solved all the problems from level 2, 3 and 4 three times. Most of the problems are sorted by theme (double attack, pin, skewer, x-ray, discovered attack, mate in 2, ...) so I assume that I'm pretty familiar with the basic tactical themes by now.

I recently bought the extra exercise books for levels 2, 3 and 4 (extra books only available in dutch). Each of these books contains 300 mixed (not sorted by theme) problems. I'm now using these 900 mixed problems for further tactical training. I'm doing this in a circle-inspired way : I'm looping through each level until I achieve a +95% score. I started with the level 2 problems one month ago, the third circle started yesterday.

Level 2, circle 1 : 90,91%
Level 2, circle 2 : 94,28%

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let me introduce myself...

Hello world ! I'm a 28 year old belgian (amateur) chess player who's desperately trying to improve his game.

I started to play chess on january 2006 by joining the local chess club. Today, one year and three months later, my (provisional) belgian rating is 1396. I try to study chess each day , but I think I'm not doing it the right way. There's so much to learn (tactics, opening, endgame, positional play, study master games, ...) but so little time (I'm married and have a little son, so 1 hour of study time a day is all i've got !)... .

I've been reading the knights errant blogs for a while now, and I decided to give their study approach a try. So this is my plan :
  • Study lots and lots and lots of tactics each day. I don't think I will do the circles in the true sense of the word (250, 500 or 1000 problems a day will not be possible with 1 hour of study time a day), but I will try to solve a lot of tactical problems repetitively.
  • Building a tactical (gambit?) opening repertoire.
  • blogging about my chess study (and improvement ;-))