Category Archives: Offtopic

Good Game

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Very interesting game.

Shape of things to come in the world of chess?

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Though no one has complained as yet, but in response to our article Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: recovering the investment with interest, one reader held that White (Schulten) simply played badly and another reader felt that the game was very old, implying rightly that modern players with White pieces would not play that way and fold up so easily!

Accepting their points, I would still like to bring out what Grandmasters almost a centuries later and of the stature of Mikhail Botvinnik and Nigel Short had to say about Morphy’s play and their comments were included in the article so that readers may not hasten to a judgment. A player like Bobby Fischer held that Morphy was probably the greatest of them all! We could certainly argue on Fisher’s views but there is no denying the fact that great players can make good players look average!

In any case, I accept that most of the illustrative games used in the articles so far belong to periods possibly half a century earlier or even before that. Why is this fascination with period pieces!?

The number of games played all over the world is increasing very fast thanks to online chess. Modern communication technology is making the moves and results available almost in real time, whether the chess play is over the board or online. With easy access to powerful computers and progressively more sophisticated software, almost anyone can dissect a game threadbare, what used to be the prerogatives of chess masters in earlier days! With so many analysts from Grandmasters to club players equipped with their PC and software, the openings have been analyzed to a depth where you can possibly rattle off the first dozen moves in any opening without even thinking! If anybody makes a mistake, it is because all people are not blessed with a computer-like memory! There may also be the tragedy of missing the forest in looking at the trees!

I sometimes wonder if it is tending to make modern games more stereo-typed (for want of a better word) and there is less to enthuse people the way Morphy games used to do 150 years earlier, or Marshall games 100 years earlier, or Tal games 50 years earlier…

You may argue that their games used to be flawed on many occasions, but can you deny the magic also that they produced by some electrifying moves? When you play through the games in Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: diverting opponent’s piece or Chess tactics: A move worth some gold pieces? or Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: gaining space for attack, do you think of the flaws or wonder at the way the victors conjured up their moves?

In one article, I expressed that according to experts, all brilliancies arise out of mistakes by one player. In fact, if both players played perfect chess as per the theoretical lines projected by analysis, what result would you expect from such games? And when you choose to play games from master level, what percentage of those do you take from drawn games? Quite low compared to the decisive ones, I am sure.

If I may use a simile, modern nutrition theory and health studies have analyzed all our food to such an extent that anyone caring about it knows for each food its calorie content, the chemicals it contains, their favorable/unfavorable effects, the risks of diseases we run and so on and so forth. But how much will you enjoy your food if you keep doing it for all your food? Conversely, do you think of these when enjoying your triple sundae? How many of us do not have weaknesses for ice-creams and chocolates in spite of knowing their flaws in respect of health-giving quality? If you stick to the guidelines, you will be in better health (!) probably, but I wonder how much enjoyment you will have left in that life.

Chess is a food for your mind and some analysis definitely helps us to understand complex positions. But over-analysis will surely create the same effect as I described for your favorite foods. I have another thought on game analysis which may appear controversial to many of you. It is my view that unless the players themselves annotate their games immediately afterwards, the analysis of moves that get published may not reflect the truth behind the logic of the moves when those were played. Except where a link can definitely be established between a previous and a later move (like Breyer’s 14th and 23rd moves in Chess Tactics: Well thought-out combinations), we can never be sure how much of the brilliant idea in a move owe itself to the player and how much to subsequent analysis! Also of relevance are our thoughts on chess logic and chess intuition.

Such may be the thoughts working in the unconscious mind of all those people like me who love to play and discuss the games that Morphy, Marshall, Tal and others of their ilk have left behind. Let us keep playing and enjoying and sometimes getting thrilled! In future, we may only be getting more and more drawn games.

We just produced some food for thought – how the reader takes it will depend on individual appetites! If your curiosity is aroused regarding the truth of the matter, you may like to compare between the periods say 1950-1959 and 2000-2009 regarding the percentage of drawn games in total games played. Or a similar comparison for the games from the World Champions of say 1905, 1955 and 2005. I do not mind getting corrected. Any takers to find and share with us?

To save this article from boring you to death, given below is a game from 1925 played at Debrecen (Hungary) between David Przepiorka and Lajos Steiner who even in their times were not among the notables. Just play it and think what I said.

David Przepiorka (1880-1940) was a Polish player of Jewish origin and became the Polish champion in 1926. He was executed by the nazis in a concentration camp. Though not well-known, he has to his credit victories over some more famous players like Teichmann, Tarrasch, Spielmann, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch etc.

Lajos Steiner (1903-1975) was a Hungarian Champion in 1931 and 1936. He emigrated to Australia in 1939 and became Australian Champion a few times. He was awarded IM in 1950. Like his opponent, he had also scored victories over players like Tarrasch, Marshall, Tartakower, Gruenfeld, Nimzowitsch etc.

Watch the Game



No one pointed it out, so we presume everyone missed a small error in the video! At the end, it says “Black Resigned” but if you have watched the video carefully, you will see that Black went all the way till he was checkmated!

Chess Trivia: What the List of Grandmasters reveal

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Wikipedia has a list of all the Grandmasters, updated up to 2008 and contains 1267 names.

Our analysis of this list revealed some interesting information.


A. The Oldest and the Youngest to receive the title

Enrico Paoli (1908-2005) of Italy was awarded Grandmaster title at the age of 88, the oldest ever.

Sergey Karjakin (b.1990) of Ukraine was awarded Grandmaster title at the age of 12, the youngest ever.


B. They are not alone, others are close by

In the Senior group, there are 5 others who got their GM title after they crossed 80. They are:

  • Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) of Germany got it in 1950 (Inaugural list) at 85 years
  • George Koltanowski (1903-2000) of USA got it in 1988 at 85 years
  • Vladimir Makogonov (1904-1993) of Azerbaijan got it in 1987 at 83 years
  • Mario Monticelli (1902-1995) of Italy got it in 1985 at 83 years
  • Esteban Canal (1896-1981) of Peru got it in 1977 at 81 years

Jacques Mieses would certainly have got it much before, had the formal rating system existed earlier.

In the Junior group, there are 8 others who got their GM title before they reached 15. They are:

Name Country Year Born Year GM GM at
Parimarjan Negi India 1993 2005 12
Etienne Bacrot France 1983 1997 14
Bu Xiangzhi China 1985 1999 14
Teimur Radjabov Azerbaijan 1987 2001 14
Magnus Carlsen Norway 1990 2004 14
Ngoc Nguyen Vietnam 1990 2004 14
Wesley So Philippines 1993 2007 14
Hou Yifan China 1994 2008 14


From above, you will possibly agree that prodigies are not bound by any geographical boundary!


C. The Patriarch of them all!

The oldest living Grandmaster is Andre Lilienthal of Hungary, born in 1911 and now 98 years old. We all wish to see him complete a well-deserved century!


D. The latest one

As per this list, the latest player to join the Grandmasters is Billy Joe Mills (b.1983) of USA who got the title this year (2009).


E. What is the most likely age for becoming a GM?

Excluding 27 Grandmasters who got the title in 1950 (the inaugural year for awarding title by FIDE) as it does not truly reflect when they reached the GM standard and another two names for whom birthdates are not available, there are 1238 names in the list. It is noted that the number of people who became GM in different range of age can be tabulated as below:

Age Group No. of GM
11 – 20 233
21 – 30 606
31 – 40 293
41 – 50 62
51 – 60 14
61 – 70 16
71 – 80 9
81 – 90 5


This can be better projected by a chart as shown below:

Likely age for becoming GM

It can be seen that two-thirds of the total number of GMs achieved it before they crossed 30, out of whom two-thirds achieved it when they were no longer ‘teenagers’!


F. Have the astrologers got something to say on this?

Discounting 10 names for whom birth month is not given, there are 1257 Grandmasters listed. Out of them, about 50% (617) were born in the first five months from January to May, almost uniformly distributed (average 124 per month). Rest 50% (640) were born in the later seven months from June to December, again almost uniformly distributed (average 94 per month). With reference to overall monthly average of 105, the average for the first 5 months of the year is 20% more, whereas that for the next 7 months is 10% less.

Does it mean you stand a better chance of being a Grandmaster if your birthday falls during January to May?


G. Does Numerology reveal any pattern?

For those who do not know about numerology, it is a sister (I do not know why FATE is taken as a woman, I’m just following the convention) to astrology, Numerologists hold that numbers (represented by your birth date, full date of birth, your house number, the numbers representing your name etc. etc.) hold significance for your life status!

Of course the date of the month when you were born is considered something of prime importance, so much so that you will find regular astrological columns in, newspapers, magazines etc. that run like ‘what this day/week/month/year holds for you if your birth number is 1, 2, 3, … 8, 9’!

Those uninitiated will ask: why up to 9 when there can be up to 31 days in a month?

Well, the numerology practitioners reduce all numbers to a single digit i.e., 1 to 9 (no 0 obviously). If it is a single digit date, no problem but for double digits, you keep adding the two digits till you get a single digit e.g., if you were born on 17th, it reduces to 8 (=1+7). If born on 29th, it reduces to 2. (2+9 gives 11 which in turn gives 1+1=2, got the idea?)

Leaving out 10 for whom birth date is missing, we checked the remaining 1257 in the GM list to find the distribution of the numerological birth numbers 1 to 9, counting as 1 all birth dates of 1, 10, 19 and 28, 4 for birth dates of 4, 13, 22 and 31, 9 for birth dates 9, 18, and 27, etc. The graph below shows the result.

Has birth number any significance?

You will find two zig-zag lines, one in RED other in BLUE, the lines for birth numbers 1 to 4 should be taken as common to both RED and BLUE. The RED graph depicts the number of GMs having a particular birth number e.g. 175 GMs with birth number 1 (which stands for birth dates 1, 10, 19 and 28), remembering that for numbers 1 to 4, the graphs are common.

The Black line with short dashes represents the trend pattern of the RED line. Ahh, see how that slopes down, the numerologists will say. Number 1 is tops! People with 1 as birth number has much greater possibility of being a GM than those with 9 as birth number!

Hold on for a moment, please. Do you know why I have plotted two lines? Has it occurred to you that whereas birth numbers up to 4 can cover 4 dates (though not in all months), numbers 5 to 9 can represent only 3 dates each? Statistically, would you expect more people under numbers 1 to 4 (each covering 4 dates) than under numbers 5 to 9 (each covering 3 dates)? You would, wouldn’t you?

To level the field, I RATIONALIZED for the inbuilt disadvantage for numbers 5 to 9 by using a multiplying factor of 1.33 (=4/3). The results are plotted as BLUE line for numbers 5 to 9. The trend line for this RATIONALIZED graph for numbers 1 to 9 (no rationalization was needed for 1 to 4, of course) is shown as a Black line with long dashes. And now what? This trend line is practically horizontal giving equal chance to all aspiring people for becoming a GM, whatever birth date they may have!

Well, if you say that even after RATIONALIZATION, those with 8 as birth number seem to have some edge, I have nothing to say!

Or may be something to say! Die-hard numerologists will trash all my statistics by using that famous quote on ‘three kinds of lies: lies, d—-d lies, and statistics’ ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli, but I do not know if Disraeli was a numerologist!


Surefire Reasons Why You Should Play Chess

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Are you wondering why there are a lot of people who love playing chess? You might probably ask, what is in chess that makes these people fascinated with it. To make everything clear to you, below are the many reasons why people including yourself should play chess.

Chess is the game of individuals from all walks of like. Anyone of any age can learn how to play this game. Compare to other sports, there is no need to retire in chess.

Chess enhances memory. The theory of chess is complex and majority of players learn various opening variations. Also, you will learn different patterns and memorize extensive variations.

Chess develops concentration. When playing the game you concentrate on mainly one objective and that is to checkmate and win the game.

Chess enhances logical thinking. This game needs some knowledge of logical tactic. You are able to learn how to create techniques in order to secure you king. Although it is inevitable to make mistakes with chess, still it is comparable to life as it offers a continuous learning process.

Chess improves creativity and imagination. It motivates a person to be imaginative. There are indistinct quantities of pleasing combinations that are until now needed to be created.

Chess encourages independence. A person playing the chess is forced to crate significant decisions manipulated merely by his or her own opinion.

Chess improves the ability to foretell and anticipate consequences of any action. It will instruct you to consider both ways before doing any decision.

Chess arouses self-motivation. It promotes the search for the finest move, the greatest plan, the most pleasing continuation beyond nonstop possibilities. It persuades the endless objective towards improvement, always searching for ways to light the fire of victory.

Chess enhances academic performance and grades. Many studies have shown evidences that kids get a greater reading level, math level and a higher learning capability in general because of playing chess. For all of the reasons already mentioned above, kids playing chess perform well at school and thus have greater opportunity to be successful in his or her life.

Chess introduces you to the world. You don’t have to a top ranked chess player to join huge important competitions. Tournaments like the World Open and US Open receive players of different levels of strength. This game will offer you a lot of chances to travel not just your country but the entire world. The game is a universal language. Many people speak its language and you can communicate with them through the checkered plain.

Chess gives the chances of meeting interesting individuals. You can able to make long-term friendships with individuals you meet up with chess.

Chess is affordable. You do not necessarily need an expensive equipment to play this game. In fact, you might just need your computer. Also, it is great to play chess set with your family at home.

Chess is a total fun! This is not a simple board game. Every chess game is unique as you need to make a lot of new ideas for every game. It definitely never gets dull.

Therefore, to make this short, chess is a lot of things!

One Simple Mental Exercise to improve your Mind Power

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Beginner chess players often get disheartened by the amount of time they are taking to improve on their play. After knowing the basic things like moves of different pieces, relative values of pieces, the rules of capture, castling and then a little higher tactics like knight fork, pin, discovered check, double check, stalemate etc., they find that they are still not able to make much headway against experienced players.

Some of the common complaints may be like:

  • I cannot remember all those sequence of moves in an opening
  • I tend to overlook things like opponent’s KB moving to g7 plans to capture  my Rook at a1
  • I cannot visualize the position that will arise after next two moves and may be something similar to these.

The ability to calculate and work out combinations are of course at a more difficult level and cannot be achieved through this exercise. But if you could at least overcome the basic hurdles, you can see some perceptible improvement. And any mental improvement will take you one or more steps up.

If you think of the mental blocks that I described above, you will realize that the solution to those essentially lies in developing your memory and observation power. Once this process starts, it will help you to absorb more from your studies and games, setting you on your way to be a much better player.

What is the exercise that can help you in these areas?

This exercise is to be done at bed time. But many people have a habit of watching tv or reading books or whatever, when they go to bed. Well, there will ulimately be a point when you are trying to close your eyes and go to sleep. I actually meant this point of time when I said bed time!

When you are trying to fall asleep, you normally experience all kinds of random thoughts passing through your mind and in between you will be in a half-awake half-sleepy kind of phase till sleep finally takes over. In your exercise, you will banish those random thoughts and focus on what all you did in their proper sequence from the moment you woke up in the morning till your moment of sleep (don’t worry, the apparent contradiction will not happen as you will fall asleep before you reach the end point!)

Is that all? Yes, that’s all there is to it. But the stipulation in this exercise is that you should try to see (visualize) and remember each and every activity, conversation, thoughts, people you met and so on. It is like you have made a video recording of your whole day and you are playing the video in your mind. Go to as much detail as you can recall.

When you start, that mind video will be in a fast forward mode. You will find that you are unable to remember what else you did when you were brushing your teeth (looking in the mirror, thinking on things to do, …) and then the scene shifts to possibly mid-afternoon in your workplace and then jumps back to your starting the car or taking the metro, and shift again to some other point. That is why I stressed that you must try to remember in correct sequence!

During initial few days, you will be surprised to find how little you remember even when you thought it was a busy day! Only some big “lumps”, particularly those which had some impact, will come to your mind without many details. But if you continue to do it, you will progressively start remembering more of your day. Your aim should be to go to the extent where you can visualize in a scene the people who were present, the conversations you had, the pictures that were hanging on the walls, the signboards you saw when you were walking on the road, even the thoughts you had … you get the point?

What is your mind achieving in this exercise? A greater power of observation, the ability to see details, and increase in memory power through your effort in remebering, which is but a memory exercise.

An amusing thing also will come to your notice. Once you start doing it, you will feel a challenge and urge to remember more of your day. And as you know that you have to remember your day at bedtime, you will be more aware of what you are doing or thinking at any point of time! See, that becomes an exercise for your power of observation. Another benefit, if you are bit of insomniac, is that you will fall asleep without a need to count sheep. Our subconscious mind is like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. When your conscious mind tries to focus it, you are trying to tie up the monkey. To regain its freedom, the subconscious will try to put you to sleep so that the conscious mind loses its control and the subconscious is free again to jump (i.e., dream) to its liking.

Keep doing this exercise and very soon you will feel the difference it has made to your mental faculty!