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Monday, 14 October 2013

Handy chess teaching tool

I had been informed about a handy tool for beginners , quite a while ago.
Not sure what it is called , but by the website name I guess "ChessScouter".

So what does this entail?
It seems to be a multiplayer or a single player board , where the player has to move for both black and white. It is not utterly flattering or is it?

As a more advanced player I found no use for this tool , but hiding under all of the knowledge and experience is still the beginner from more than a decade ago. This tool shows forks , pins and attacked pieces on the board. It also allows en passant , something a lot of chess interfaces do not allow.

I remember back when I started out I bought Ultimate Chess and Checkers , it was expensive then compared to what you can get now...however you not move en passant and once I grew I realized that any chess software had to include this as it is a basic skill a lot of beginners lack.

Oh I almost forgot to mention that it also shows legal moves , another handy thing. At some stage we all looked the fool counting the squares that are under check one by one just too make sure we were really checkmated.

All in all a really nice tool for the genuine beginner , but once you have mastered the basics it is time for some proper software. However check it out , it appears that the developer put quite some effort into making it a satisfying user experience  for the chess novice.

Just follow the link:

Post comments of your experience , it is not developed by me nor do I endorse this tool , just thought it is a nifty gadget for beginners...

Friday, 30 August 2013

Statistics don't lie

Fischer random , not such a random idea. I can vaguely recall the criticism my coach had for me after discovering that I devoted an entire afternoon to few games of Fischer random chess. Which is why I have never played it again. The fundamental idea however was as explained by it's inventor , the late Bobby Fischer was that chess would eventually become over analyzed and that most of the game will be played from recall , time and time again.

He was not wrong at all , but with the endless possibilities of mating on a given square , there must be permutations of patterns , which if the pattern is taken as a combination reduces the possibilities by some margin. Yet this number is still unfathomable. The fact that endgames are well analyzed and that collections like table base exists suggests that Fischer random has a valid reason for existence , but this is not so.

The less pieces on the board the easier analysis becomes. No one can question that , but how do you get to that ideal position , where the possibilities are finite? You have to traverse the maze of infinite possibilities to get to a position which you can recognize , analyze and master with the recall of simple theory. This is barely recall , but rather implementation of theory. Take a mate with two bishops for example , we know the end position , but no one memorizes every move to get to that position

An example of mate with two bishops

So in conclusion , the law of large numbers suggests that with enough games every possible position will appear so there is merit in chess becoming more analyzed , but analyzed to the point where we have to switch pieces around , I don't believe that is possible. However still one of the most entertaining afternoons I had in my chess career to date.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The immortal game

The immortal game.
I decided to make this post after a reference to the Kieseritzky Gambit in an earlier post , this post can be found here. I was quite critical and stated that it had been refuted , this is still the truth , but I forgot to mention something very relevant and important.

This was that this line lead to possibly the most famous chess game ever. A game played more than a century ago , by two of the biggest names in chess history. A game where one player sacked all of his major pieces , only retaining his minor pieces for an incredible mate.

The graceful beauty emerging from absolute chaos as I also stated in the post mentioned earlier. To think that this was played in 1851 , when chess tactics were not readily available and volume upon volume of chess tactic books were yet to be dreamed of. The player who came up with this brilliance was Adolf Anderssen , although his opponent Lionel Kieseritzky who had the black pieces also deserves some of the credit. Below is an animation playing through the game if you are not familiar with this important piece of chess history.

The image is used under a creative commons license. The image is taken from a wikipedia article which references the attribution as:  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 	  Attribution: Karophyr at en.wikipedia 	    	    	    	    For terms of use please visit Please note that the site is in no way endorsed or affiliated with the content creator
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As you can see it is sheer brilliance , my words can not to this justice. So much analysis of this game is readily available , but if you do not have the hours to sit behind a board , I suggest checking out a video I found whilst doing my research.

View sources

I really hope that you enjoyed reading this article. At this time I do not feel that adding the algebraic notation will better your experience.. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Funny "old world"

Whilst browsing through my chess books  I rediscovered my Staunton's Chess Player's Handbook. With some nostalgia bout sitting behind the board , going through his chess praxi's I started reliving the old days , when the game was still young , when theoretical errors could still be the main line without any refutation , when it was still queen's bishop to rook three and knight was still Kt and not N.

This made me chuckle as I played through some of the lines in the back of the book. A whole section devoted to the Kieseritsky Gambit , with thorough analysis , sub lines , big names , like Anderssen and Morphy , yet it is hardly seen today , because of the d6 refutation by Fischer. Published in 1961 , a mere 19 years after this book was published albeit not updated since at least 1929. The sicilian on the other hand is barely analyzed and only mentions P-K4 and P-QB4 in the referencing section...

However my amusement changed to awe when I saw the accurate and surprisingly relevant endgame analysis which followed the opening section. Endgame theory , which even an advanced player would find somewhat interesting. That so much chaos could be followed by perfection really stunned me. Such simple and sometimes forceful middle games with absolutely no structure could give way to such beauty.

That's why it is a funny old world , so much attention to detail in the end product , but no refining in the process to get there, no computers to guide the player and yet search engine like precision. I really think I would've enjoyed that golden age , where sitting behind the board was still the only way to expand your tabia.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

How to play chess #2

This is a follow up on the first article in the series.

In the first article I said that  I will not deal with how pieces are moved. I did however find a nice summary of how the pieces are moved. So I realized that it might be a good idea to share it and maybe help someone somewhere trying to learn chess or teach someone else the basics of chess.

Click on the image to enlarge

I will run this how to play chess series for a while , but I will also start publishing some analysis , mostly of my own games as there are enough people analyzing the games of the greats. But hey I might just post some of those analysis here as well. The only rule is that it must be an interesting game. If you  have some analysis you want to share , you can inbox me and I will post it , crediting you of course.

Hash table

Most chess engines give you the choice to set a hash table size , before initiating the analysis/playing process. It is usually set at a default value from anywhere between 64mb to 512mb , depending on you computer's available RAM (Random access memory). The reason for this choice is to allocate the amount of RAM which the engine can use to store positions which have already been analyzed.

 The previous sentence also defines the hash table , which to my understanding is basically a database the engine creates to store positions which have already been analyzed. The chess engine then uses this as a reference if a familiar position is encountered in the analysis process. The engine then recalls it's previous analysis from the hash table and thus saves time and resources by not having to analyze the position again.  

So what is the ideal hash table size then?
 Chess engine programmers and chess engine enthusiasts all have their own version of what the perfect hash table size is. That is when I decided to investigate this phenomenon of the 'chess engine hash table size'. I was overwhelmed at first glance , but after finding a well written page on this topic I have come to the conclusion that:
  • Allocating only the amount of RAM you will have free for the chess engine and no more , as it may cause hard drive troubles with the dumping of temporary files on the hard drive to free up RAM.
  • The smaller the time control you use , the smaller hash table size should be set.
  • The age and structure of the chess engine you are using should be taken into account
  • If the amount of RAM allocated is to high the hard drive will start making scratchy/ratcheting noises , this is a good indication of the hash table size. 
So in conclusion there is no fixed ideal value , but rather an ideal value for every situation. Every different chess engine will require a different ideal size , I suspect that the complexity of the position on the chessboard will also have an affect on the number of positions which have to be stored.

Some of my conclusions are based on data I found from this site:

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Chess Facebooked

Good knowing things is now also available on social media.

I have just created our Facebook page. Like us here , to get updates on our latest posts and news. Some unique chess content will also be shared on that page. I know how annoying spam is , so I will try to keep my posts on social media to a minimum. After all we chess players prefer our peace and quite.

Thought it was worth a mention. Now time to get back to the chessboard , to get me some more tabia knowledge.

I have also added a like button in the sidebar for your convenience

Fact #2

According to research done by some guys with glasses and paper in frames on their walls , chess promotes not only cognitive ability but also mathematical ability. My chess playing days began when a chess coach named this during an interview. My parents took the bait and there I was , playing chess. So what does this have to do with the fact you may ask? Well I am now quite the mathematician and studying a degree in a mathematical discipline. This confirms the fact in terms of my experiences. Nothing is concrete , but this is the conclusion that scholars have reached. You can comment if you disagree.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Chess engines

With the abundance of chess engines in recent years , making a choice of which engine to use is quite tough. This is why I am writing about my chess engines of choice. First note that most engines can do a reasonable job of analysis and give you the best move to play. This however is not enough. The best move now , might not seem so good when 5 moves later the engine has gone from a +5 to a 0.00 or even worse , this is where the depth of moves come in. Engines like crafty can cope quite well with one or two lines , but as soon as the resources are limited things go from bad to worse. I prefer to use either Houdini or Rybka , the latest versions are always the best to use. In my opinion any chess player should make the investment and purchase one of these engines. With the vast expanse of possible positions from one single position , the best sequence of moves is very important. I still believe that analysis by human eye is the best , but with jobs and life , it is hard to always sit and calculate. Therefore input and leave. It is worth knowing that even the best chess engines blunder , Kasparov matched the best engine of his time. Which means that somewhere engines lack insight. So I play through the lines in spite of the computer's opinion. As in chess , every second counts , I'd rather go through 5 quality lines than 1 quality line and 4 iffy lines. But hey if you don't want to believe me , look up Houdini and see that it has the highest elo rating for a chess engine to date. I hope I have declutered your preparation process somewhat.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

King safety #1

When phased with the phrase , king safety any person would immediately say that it is to defend the king. Historians would say a big fortress , with a good supply of food and a motivated, well trained loyal guards constitute king safety. However , in chess this defensive mindset does not always constitute king safety.

Just like in real life the king can be flanked , i.e attacking the village and drawing out the guards , leaving the king unprotected. In this case protecting the pawns in front of the king ,, protecting the ranks, files and diagonals which can lead to an attack on the king , but disregarding the flank pawns , suddenly an extra queen appears and you're 3 to 1 defense diminishes into a 3 to 4 defense. So in chess , king safety can be seen as attacking your opponents weaknesses to tie down his pieces and preventing this flank attack.

So now you think that you have it under control , but there are still many pathways leading to your king , one being the sacrifice. This will be discussed in the next edition of King Safety. This is just a broad overview and my philosophy , king safety is much more complicated than my simple example , but as said i will elaborate in #2.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


I have added some daily chess puzzles to the blog , so visitors can enjoy chess. There is also a games section where , puzzle games are available , currently it is limited to Sudoku and a crossword. The chess puzzle section could be handy to bookmark as there are a few daily puzzles in one place. I will possibly add some more apps as the blog matures , but for now this will have to do

Sunday, 4 August 2013

How to play chess #1

I would suspect that most of the visitors will already have established the basic principles of playing chess. I am already very familiar with chess and I have been playing for quite some years now. I can hold my own up to probably a 2600 elo on a good day. Enough about me however , lets get to the basics.

Chess is played on a board with 64 squares. 32 light coloured squares and 32 dark squares. The starting position has 32 pieces. 16 black and 16 white pieces. White and Black both start with 8 pawns , 2 bishops , 2 knights , 2 rooks , a king and a queen. The goal of the game is to win by mating your oponent. I.e. checking the opposing king and there being no way to for the king to get out of check. Hence no pieces can be moved infront of the king to stop check or the king can not move to a square where there is no check. It is also good to note that there as to be one square between the kings at all times.
The black king can only move to the black square(b8) , as to maintain the one square between the kings. There is no exception to this rule. So if it were white to move and white checks with a rook on any squares except b8(the black square next to the king) it would be mate.

I am not going to deal with how pieces are moved. This can be found under the Recommended sites under Learn to play chess. In the next installment of learn to play chess I will be dealing with the stale mate. (Draw)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

FICS server downtime

FICS , back up
It appears that the free internet chess server is back up and running again. This after apparently being unlawfully accessed  on the 18th of July , source. This is a big blow to free chess in general.

The issue is not that users suffered inconvenience , but also the fact that private data like emails and passwords are submitted to FICS. Humans are creatures of habit , thus all of a person's accounts could be compromised if the same password is used for everything. This has given me another idea for my blog , which will be unveiled in later posts. FICS is bookmarked in the Recommended links section should you want to visit them.

This should in no way influence your decision to use FICS , but rather just as an update. It is still a great site , which I have used in the past myself. They are still one of the best providers of a free chess platform for online play.

Thursday, 28 February 2013


It is really almost unimaginable to think that a FIDE rating of 2872 has been achieved. This is no mean feat and translates to a series of very impressive tournament performances. It is however no surprise that the player who achieved this is Magnus Carlsen. He has been gaining popularity for quite a few years now.

He is also one of my favorite players of all time and still has so much to achieve. The only thing I can think of is will it be possible to break the 2900 threshold or has he reached a career high rating. The record for now though is 2872 , an elo which I can only dream of achieving. Luckily I get to appreciate the elegance and brilliance of the games which brought about this incredible elo. Which is only a number , a number not doing justice to the describing of the sheer brilliance right there on the 64 square