Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blitz Chess - Is it Ruining Our Minds?

Good evening ladies and gents! It's been about a week since I have last updated my blog, so I've been greatly anticipating today's post. Today I am going to discuss Blitz Chess, a game type in which each player is allotted five minutes for the entire game. It is volatile, fast-paced, and very exciting. With the ever growing technological resources we have available to play chess on, Blitz chess is now the dominant game type.  For instance, you are at the doctors and the nurse tells you you have about a ten minute wait. What are you going to do? Of course whip out your iPhone and begin playing a blitz game online via or another chess app. It makes sense; ten minutes is not enough time to unravel your travel chess set and sneak a game in sprawled out over the carpet. So you ask, why is Ethan writing about Blitz Chess?

I chose this topic in order to give you a fair warning. There is a consensus among high ranking players and many chess analysts that Blitz is deteriorating our insight and patience. We live in a super technological ADHD society which promotes Blitz: quick, inconsequential games that do not require hours of intense analysis and thinking. Before this technological age almost all chess games were played traditionally - long and thought-out. If you wish to play in real tournament play (2-3 hour games) then you better break free from the Blitz style of play. Vladimir Kramnik, one of the best chess players ever states, "Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapid play in favour of serious chess." 

Keep in mind that Blitz is not evil. I thoroughly enjoy playing it, but if you wish to succeed in traditional play, be wary. International Master Will Stewart, when writing about this very subject concurs with Kramnik when saying, "Your ability to concentrate on a single game diminishes as playing habits are built around blitz games. Playing out many games in a short period with quick positional and tactical assessments, and unsound sacrificial attacks can be very harmful to your serious, slow chess game." You have heard it from me, and have you have heard it from the experts. Please enjoy Blitz, it is fantastic, but as with anything, enjoy responsibly.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Endgame - What You Need to Know

Hey everyone, hope all is going well! As I am sure you all know, so far in my blogs I have discussed how different pieces move, and the importance of chess tactics. Today we are going to discuss the end game, more specifically, what to look for in the end game in order to play successfully. Many chess players contain a strong opening, perhaps an even stronger mid-game, but then crumble in the end game. This should not be the case. Suppose you are playing an opponent with a similar rating and the game is dead even - every capture you make is countered by a capture on behalf of the other player. Either the game is going to end in a draw, or, given you play a strong endgame, a win for you. But this is conditional upon you understanding the fundamentals of the endgame, and executing it properly.

The endgame is defined as the stage of the game when few pieces are left on the board. Passed pawns (pawns that are far advanced on the board and/or have a chance of promoting to a queen)  are also key elements to the endgame. In addition, the king becomes very important due to its diagonal movement. In summing up the definition of the endgame, Max Euwe and Walter Meiden, prominent chess figures in the mid-20th century, developed five generalizations of the endgame.

1. In king and pawn endings, an extra pawn is decisive in more than 90 percent of the cases.

2. In endgames with pieces and pawns, an extra pawn is a winning advantage in 50 to 60 percent of the cases. It becomes more decisive if the stronger side has a positional advantage

3. The king plays an important role in the endgame.

4. Initiative is more important in the endgame than in other phases of the game. In rook endgames the initiative is usually worth at least a pawn.

5. Two connected passed pawns are very strong. If they reach their sixth rank they are generally as powerful as a rook.

Alright, so we have discussed plenty about the endgame, now let's see it in action.

Above is a common endgame with a single pawn in addition to the kings. As the caption states, if white moves 1. Kb6, the a file is completely protected for the pawn to advance and promote. However, if 1...Kc5, white is forced to play 2. Ka6 Kc6 (2...Kb4, results in 3. a5 and road to promotion).

Starting after 1...Kc5. White is forced to play Ka5, resulting in draw.

Below is a common endgame involving many pawns and few minor or major pieces. The main elements of this match are truly between the king and bishops. The move white makes to win is fantastic, e6! (vacating e5 for his king). White goes on to sac his bishop for the pawn at g6, allowing for his h pawn to promote.                                         

 Molnar vs. Nagy, 1966

Among one of the most common endgames is between rooks with the addition of a pawn. In the diagram below, white has the advantage with his pawn at e7, but only if it's his move next. Otherwise, black can check repeatedly forcing the draw. 1. Rg1+ Kg6 (if 1. Rf7+ Kg8!) 2. Kf8 Ra8+ 3. e8Q Rxe8 4. Kxe8 and the game is over in about 15 moves. 


 There are a plethora of endgame variations, trillions in fact. But it is the idea of how to play the endgame and what to look for that counts. Be careful not to stalemate your opponent and avoid zugzwang as well. Of course, not all endgames can be won, but as I said earlier, none should be lost either. Always aim for the win, and accept nothing less than a draw. Emanuel Lasker, world chess champion for twenty-seven years once said, "When you see a good move, look for a better one." Take heed to Lasker's words and may you play well!

Chess images taken from and

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hey guys! Last week I posted my interview with Alex Colovic on his chess experience and some advice he had to offer. The main thing he stressed is the importance of tactical exercises in becoming a more advanced player. No matter your skill level, tactical puzzles/exercises will improve how your mind analyzes any given scenario, increasing your chess IQ.

Remember, my desire throughout my blogs is to empower you to think more critically, always questioning your opponent's moves while also having a plan for your own strategy. I've posted a few chess puzzles in this blog aimed at this very idea: improving your chess IQ. They are all based off games from Grandmasters; some are simple, only one move, while others are more advanced, requiring a few moves to solve. Solutions are at the bottom of the page. Try to refrain from looking until you have solved it. Enjoy :)

#1) Find the best move for white.                                

#2) White to move and win.

#3) Black to move and win.

A Pulvermarcher vs Capablanca, New York, 1907

#4) White to move and gain material


#5) Black to move and gain material

#6) White to move and win/gain material


1. Bc7 
2. Rd8+
3. ...Nxe4
4. Nh6+ w/Qxe5 & Nxf7+
5. ...Qxf1+
6. Re8+ w/Qxc8+ & Nxd5+

As I am sure you just witnessed, a few of these problems are quite difficult. This is the purpose, however, to stretch your brain. Most tricky for me is number six. 1. Re8+ ...KxRe8 2. QxBc8+ is followed by ...Ke7. 3. Nxd5 is the real move, forcing black to capture either with the queen or pawn or its checkmate. It makes no difference, because (3...c6xNd5 permits 4. Qd8xQc5), likewise (3...QxNd5 then 4. BxQd5)

The other puzzles are quite self-explanatory, but if you are struggling with comprehending any of them, please shoot me a comment and I'll make sure to respond. I hope that these puzzles were challenging and that you feel more confident in your chess abilities. They are all from Chess Puzzles by GM's, a chess site that has thousands of available puzzles and tactics for free. Check it out and keep increasing that chess IQ!