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The 1st forum, where all the questions will be directly answered by Grandmasters!

The 1st forum, where you’ll be rewarded for your answers!

ChessMood Open with $20,000 prize fund!
Dear chess friends!
I’m super excited to announce that on October 4-12 in Armenia there is going to be ChessMood Open tournament with around $20.000 prize fund.

By the way, right after it, we’re going to have “Yerevan Open” tournament (October 13-22) with a similar prize fund. So you can combine them and play two tournaments.
As there are no border problems at the moment, you can easily travel to Armenia.
Looking forward to seeing you soon and drinking something cold together :) 

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The winners of August, 2021

Hello champions and future champions! Hello ChessMood family!

Thank you all for sharing your games. It’s great to see you play some really strong chess! Keeping crushing the same way!

Moving on to the prizes,

The first prize goes to Jaylen Lenear for his Tal-like approach to finish the game.

https://chessmicrobase.com/microbases/15045/games/1155806?token=6jginaj

The second prize goes to Vladimir Bugayev for the way he conducted a crushing attack in the Anti-Sicilian!

https://www.chess.com/analysis/game/live/23342986021?tab=report

The third prize goes to Yuma Okabe for brilliantly handling the initiative after 11...Nxe4! and converting it into a win.

https://lichess.org/nGPV5sfm/black#25

The 4th prize goes to Karl Strohmaier for this brilliant attack in the Accelerated Dragon.

https://www.chess.com/analysis/game/live/23746652995?tab=report

The 5th prize goes to Paul Alejandro Cardones for the picturesque 16.Nce4#!

 

Congratulations to all of you, and thank you once again everybody for sharing your games! 


Keep crushing, and keep the #COGRO

See you soon for next month’s contest.

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To computer or not to computer - that is the question...

I want to open a discussion on this as I feel there is a little too much of a hardline against engines.

The prevailing wisdom is that players under (2200 or thereabouts) should avoid engine use or at least do some serious analysis first. There are however I believe several assumptions underlying this:
. That the student has a coach who can answer why a move is good or not if the student is unable to come to a conclusion no matter how many of such positions there are
. That the student has a large amount of time to do such analysis
. That 2200 equates to some kind of level without explaining what the underlying level means
. That bad engine discipline leads to overuse (cf. as using a calculator when you should be learning your times-tables)
. That comments and material in courses and books is always accurate and appropriate for the student's level

. That weaker players will not be able to use the engine appropriately or will misread it
. That it's unnecessary for below 2200 play
. That becoming a Grandmaster is the goal

First my own feeling on this:

If you are using an engine appropriately for your level and you are aware of the limitations of an engine, and you do not have a coach on hand, then some engine use is beneficial, probably more so than not using one at all. It can be used to check your own analysis and assumptions as well as speed up your ability to work through material when time is limited.

I think if you ask the top trainers most would say don't use a computer, but they are already coaching their student and some of their students have many hours each day to spend doing things a computer would short-cut (the should cut might cut out some practice or learning of course). However I think this wisdom doesn't always translate well to the club player with a few hours each week to spend on their chess - plus limited concentration span for study when it's a hobby, hence the discussion.

The limitations of the computer need to be understood:
. Computers are bad at endgames, better now, but still need to improve unless it is a tablebase like or tactical position (I consider tablebase position use databases not engines).
. Computers often do not tell you straight out (without some investigation) why one move is better than another (unless the line clearly shows a tactical error etc). Certainly no explanation is given and the few tools that do are still in their infancy.
. Computers perform better in tactical positions than positional (though this is changing) because of the insufficient evaluation function coupled with very deep search ability.
. Centipawn measurements are a little arbitrary
. Psychological or human difficulty factors are not considered in an evaluation (including gambits) which is why the Benko or Sicilian variations get a hard time
. Sometimes computers need to run for a while to get a true evaluation even in positions that aren't so profound to humans.

What the above shows is it's very easy to misuse/read a computer, which is where a fair bit of the adage of don't use a computer comes from.

Second I take a little bit of disdain to mentioning ratings as if they are levels of skill. A 2200 is something that is on the face of it strong, but there is a big rating difference between a player who got 2200 by playing mostly strong players and the few draws or very occasional win got them there, versus someone who plays in clubs and lower level tournaments and the constant barrage of weaker players which the occasional loss or draw keeps the rating lower. The rating pool (sometimes artificially constructed by choosing which games a player plays) is very important. Similarly one might be 2400 in the Sicilian, but 2000 in the Benko, or 2400 in the endgame and opening, but 2000 in the middle game. They might be 1800 after a day at work, but 2000 on a weekend. The weakest point is probably going to determine the rating more than someone who is all round good. In addition rating does not equate with experience: there are plenty of players in the 1800-2000 range some who are pretty good (just not consistent or hobbled by just playing in a small pool of 1600-2000 players) who have been playing chess for 40 years, and there are plenty of 2200s who have been playing just a few years. The question is what does this 2200 really mean in terms of chess skill or maturity.

I feel the time factor for study really needs to be explored further. As I've mentioned elsewhere there are those who can spend 5 hours a day on chess, whereas some only get 5 hours a week. In the latter case it's 'getting the best bang for your buck'. Spending 15 minutes analysing to get an answer why a move was bad (after spending 15 minutes already looking at in the game but without the hindsight of what happen), is often too much of a task, so soon no analysis takes place at all. Similarly trying to understand master moves in a book of 500 positions/fragments/games will take years for just one book if you take this approach with only 5 hours study available per week - most will give up or not finish the course - and while they are studying it nothing else is getting worked on.

I'm somewhere in the middle for study time and here is where I use an engine:
. As a blunder check after online games, and to understand whether a marked inferior move was inferior and to try to tease why another move was superior.
. When I can't understand why a move was/wasn't played after a bit of thinking
. To check my own analysis
. To check for errors in published material before I commit it to memory (some errors in positional based material aren't necessarily a problem if the pattern is intended to be conveyed not the specific example).
. Openings when looking at the database for what was played as there is usually too much complexity for a non-master to properly make a decision on whether a plan or move was a bad one. Plus just because it's a game in a database played by someone strong, doesn't mean there are not errors.
. New ideas or things to consider in a position that I haven't seen before

Examples of where I would say is bad engine use:
. Studying tactical/analysis material before having a proper go at solving it

. To quibble over a couple of centi-pawns whether one opening move was better than another
. To find deep lines to study in openings so 'you know more' beyond what is appropriate in the games you have been facing
. Before actually playing through a published game at least once to get a feel of what went on
. When your eye is more on the engine than the material itself
. Getting definite evaluations of endgames
. As a substitute for thinking (aka the analogy of using a calculator vs mental arithmetic)

Finally what level would I say is appropriate (beyond blunder and material checks) from my own personal feelings (without the view a grandmaster or a coach has):
. You make few blunders, certainly nothing too serious in longer games
. You understand tactics well
. You understand positional concepts well

At least at this point you have the ability to question a computer evaluation as well as less likely to use it as a first point of call. Whether that is 1700, 2000, 2200 of course depends on the factors I've mentioned as well as the individual.

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Isn't this a winning move?

https://chessmood.com/course/classical-chess-endgames/episode/1919 6 min 37 sec in the video, I noticed that black can take on g2 with the bishop forcing white to play Kg1 (otherwise there will be some discovery), and then playing f3 with a protected passed pawn. Doesn't this work?

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Sicilian Dragon opening gave me a good game - Thank you Chessmood!

Hey folks, I just wanted to share a game I played where I was able to implement the Sicilian opening I learned here on Chessmood.

https://www.chess.com/a/odjSGF4AxWdL

I know I am not highly rated, and I missed a tactical opportunity early in the game, but I did have a very nice Rook sac that led to a 6 move forced mate.  I don't think these always happen in games and they are fun to see so I thought I would share here for others to also enjoy. I also almost had a nice smothered mate that was possible because of the opening formation.

Thank you Chessmood team, I am very much enjoying the content!

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Approach to understanding a position/idea
This is roughly the approach I'm taking when studying a position idea over a number of moves. Ideas / suggestions for improvements welcome.

First I don't have hours and hours to spend on chess (though I do rack up quite a few at the moment as I'm sure my wife will tell you). So wisdom such as treat the position like a long-play game and guess the move 3 mins max a move probably isn't so useful for me. With a book such as Positional Chess Handbook containing just under 500 positions that would take at least a year for me to work through with that approach - fine perhaps if you have 8 hours to study a day and can sustain it, but impractical otherwise (not saying that the technique is bad when you do want to improve calculation skill, but then you wouldn't need to do all 500).

Second it's very easy to get lost in playing or reading the moves which is why I don't like playing from books or moving the pieces on a board, a pgn I can move through with a key press focusing on the game rather than losing sight every time I look away from the position, won't make wrong moves, and going back is a lot easier. It also lends itself to multiple repetition better.

I'm trying roughly the following steps:
Play through the game the first time, try to get the gist of what happens, not worry too much about well what if...
Play through a second time, try to make a narrative: e.g. king centralises, advance pawns, cause a zuzgwang to penetrate further, capture key pawn, force promotion
Play through a third time, check notes, try to answer some what-ifs with a computer if need be, note down positions of interest if any

Move on, only to come back if something is needed to be referenced later (say a similar concept) or to play from the position to test my technique (or lack thereof).

Other supporting ideas:

Between these takes I'll often use what I call 'the detective method' to give it a catchy name. Those who have read novels by Agatha Christie (famous author of murder-mystery books) will know the general format (at least from what I remember from reading them at school) is that there are often several theories and multiple suspects, but not too deep, where it all gets revealed (oh so obvious by the master detective) on the last couple of pages (so much so it's a joke that the best way to spoil such books is to remove or prevent reading of those pages). If you work backwards from the end though (or so I've read long after I read these novels) you'll see all the clues and it will be more obvious (of course you know what to look for and discard what doesn't fit the final narrative - cognitive bias). I sometimes find chess positions like this - go forwards and there are so many ways it could have gone, many things to look out for (often not relevant to the master) as well as questions (well why didn't they play that, what if...) however it can be useful to go from when the position is much clearer and you understand it fine and go backwards into the complications asking how did we get here (easier with pgns). Then you are looking for the key moves and strategies that made just that possible including the mistakes, and not everything else.

Another trick I use, especially from understanding why a computer's move is 'better' is to swap repeatedly between the main line and the computer line. So let's say the computer says Be3 is superior to Be2, okay, so I play Be3, well now what, then perhaps there is a follow up a4 say, well let's see if I play Be2 as in then game then a4 then what. Maybe Be2 then Be3. This might go on several moves deep, but often it turns out that Be3 with a4 was necessary right now because of something the opponent was threatening (or would be given time to defend) that I didn't see. Also I might have discarded a move because of something I saw the opponent had - so try the same technique with the potential replies to find why I was wrong. I find this especially useful on post game analysis (especially auto-analysis of lichess) when the computer alternative is more subtle than just made the wrong decision, or some obvious tactical issue with my move - sometimes these quick checks are wrong of course and my move was better when the computer gets to think for a bit. I use the computer less on games where trying to understand positional ideas (as even if they are tactically unsound where they were played the concept is not). However, sometimes to answer the whatifs or check something the computer needs to get switched on.

Finally there is the mindset that a few positions progress every now and then is better than one or two big attempts and giving up and chop and changing too much between other things (guilty here). I try not to beat myself up (particularly after working all day) if I only get through two positions in an evening (when I first started I tried to get through everything quickly as if the next book would add something more and a few books later I'd be master level - which never happened of course).


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