30 October 2022

Book quote: The Empty Copper Sea


From Chapter 7 of The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald:

I saw her in a little while, trotting back and forth in the dining room, wearing a crotch-length tennis dress with a sailor collar and a little white yachtsman’s cap. Another waitress had joined her. A couple of construction workers—off at four—came in for beers. Somebody started the juke. I watched Michele. She had absolutely great legs. I felt guilty at the way I was going to try to booby-trap my question. Not very guilty. Anticipatory guilt, the kind that Meyer calls chessboard guilt, when you realize that the weaker player is making a frail response to a standard opening, and you are about to ram your bishops down his throat.

16 October 2022

Training quote of the day #40

 Genna Sosonko, from the Preface to My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi (2011 edition):

His uncompromising nature, motivation and eagerness for a struggle are well known. These qualities, together with imagination in chess, are usually typical of youth, and with age they normally fall away. Experience is accumulated, novelty loses its attraction, and there is hardly anything to excite the imagination or to urge one on, as in one's younger years. With Victor Korchnoi, this has not happened. He is still searching, analysing, preparing for tournaments and playing.

Korchnoi often says about himself that he was never a child prodigy: both the master title, and that of grandmaster, as well as his further ascent up the chess hierarchy, were achieved by him with considerable difficulty, accompanied by rises and falls...there are two qualities that distinguish Korchnoi among his many colleagues: his boundless love for the game, and his absolute honesty in analysis.

10 October 2022

Book completed - Petrosian: Move by Move


I recently completed Petrosian: Move by Move by IM Thomas Enqvist. Normally as part of my chess study I am always going through a games collection, along with doing tactics puzzles and working on at least one other chess resource (opening, middlegame or endgame). Games with insightful master-level annotations can help with all phases of your game, including both technical and thinking skills, along with broader ideas like chess psychology.

Although ideally one can study games with annotations by the player(s) themselves, in order to get a full picture of their actual thought process, the thorough type of presentations of games in the "move by move" series do a similar job. They can also be more objective, as sometimes a player is inclined to present their "best games" without sufficient self-criticism.

In this book, IM Enqvist has immersed himself in former World Champion Tigran Petrosian's games and career and provides some interesting context to each game, as well as excellent commentary. While each game is instructive on its own, there are also some general lessons/insights that I would highlight from the whole collection.

  • Petrosian's games show the high value of repressing your opponent's counterplay. One observation I read a while back from a master trainer mentioned the tendency of Class players to always want moves to "do something" - in other words, make an immediate threat or have an obvious purpose on the next move. This often contributes to the common mistake of focusing on your own threats/intentions and missing those of your opponent. There is just as much benefit - oftentimes more - in taking away threats and opportunities from the other side.
  • Petrosian's maneuvering play provided many examples of the strategic value of improving your worst piece on each move, including sequences where pieces were shifted to their best possible squares on the board. Often there was no grand strategy associated with these short-term maneuvers, but they set him up for success time after time.
  • The value of strategic patience and a lack of hurriedness, along the lines of the above types of non-forcing maneuvers, is also seen consistently across Petrosian's games. Enqvist does point out in some games where Petrosian could (and perhaps should) have played more actively, so sometimes this quality of patience was perhaps taken to an extreme. However, Petrosian as a world-class player was also quite capable of seizing the moment to open up games with sacrificial attacks and brilliant tactics.
  • Some of Petrosian's less-than-ideal play was deliberate and psychologically based, for example baiting opponents into attacking him by entering positions/variations not well known to them. This goes against the "play against the pieces" mentality which is usually advised for improving players, but in reality these psychological gambits can be effective in tournament/match play where you can get inside a well-known opponent's head.
  • Certain qualities to Petrosian's games were quite instructive for me, in particular his use of exchange sacrifices, rook play and pawn play.
There were few negatives to the book. It could have used one more editing pass for language and grammar, but that is common these days. I saw perhaps three errors in game notation, including in one case where a single move was skipped, but after a few minutes I was able to figure out what it must have been from the remainder of the game. The other notation errors were easily identified as incorrect squares.

08 October 2022

Book quote #2: The Turquoise Lament


From the Epilogue of The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald:

It was a warm and windy Bahama night, and the Busted Flush lay at anchor in the lee of a tiny island in the Banks shaped like a crooked boomerang.

I had Meyer crushed until he got cute and found a way to put me in perpetual check with a knight and a bishop. We turned off all the lights and all the servomechanisms that click and queak and we went up to the sun deck to enjoy the September night, enjoy a half moon roving through cloud layers, enjoy a smell of rain on the winds.

02 October 2022

Book quote: The Turquoise Lament

 From Chapter Ten of The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald:

"Who is Howard Brindle?"

"If that's not a rhetorical question, and if that is your starting point, I agree. But you're not going to find out tonight. The chess board is over there."

By the time Nurse Ella Marie Morse came on duty to look after him during the hours of the night, I had the game won. He had slowly worked me back into a cramped position, pressing me back against my castled king, smothering my queen side, but he had failed to see a sacrifice that gave me a very damaging knight fork and put me a piece ahead. I was trading him down to an end-game defeat, and he resigned when the nurse arrived, saying something about possibly the fever had damaged some brain cells after all.