Monday, November 29, 2010

Garry Kasparov @ Google

One of the main reasons I like Kasparov is that he is always so frank when he offers his opinions on simply any issue. He does not feel the need to hide his thoughts and says it like it is. The video below offers some very fresh and deep insights on how a chess player can think, which is why I am sharing it with all of you. A fair warning to all of you but the video is more than one hour long. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quah Seng Sun on Magnus Carlsen

After reading Quah Seng Sun's article on Magnus' withdrawal from the Candidates matches, I found it very disturbing that Seng Sun failed to paint a balance and true picture to the whole issue. So, to do the whole world justice and give them the whole truth, let us read what Magnus had to say when he withdrew from the World Championship cycle (with my comments in bold and parentheses).
To: FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & FIDE World Championship Committee.

Reference is made to the ongoing World Championship cycle.

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision not to take part in the planned Candidate Matches between March and May 2011.

After careful consideration I’ve reached the conclusion that the ongoing 2008 - 2012 cycle does not represent a system, sufficiently modern and fair, to provide the motivation I need to go through a lengthy process of preparations and matches and, to perform at my best. (OK, Seng Sun pointed this out, but I will return to this point later)

Reigning champion privileges, the long (5 yr) span of the cycle, changes made during the cycle resulting in a new format (Candidates) that no World Champion has had to go through since Kasparov, puzzling ranking criteria as well as the shallow ceaseless match-after-match concept are all less than satisfactory in my opinion. (These are the main points why Carlsen withdrew. Seng Sun did not point out at all that CHANGES were made DURING the cycle. Carlsen's frustration should be noted because how would you feel if the tournament directors were to change the format of the tournament after playing a few rounds? This is just common sense)

By providing you with 4 months notice before the earliest start of the Candidates as well as in time before you have presented player contracts or detailed regulations, I rest assured that you will be able to find an appropriate replacement.

Although the purpose of this letter is not to influence you to make further changes to the ongoing cycle, I would like to take the opportunity to present a few ideas about future cycles in line with our input to FIDE during the December 27th 2008 phone-conference between FIDE leaders and a group of top-level players.

In my opinion privileges should in general be abolished and a future World Championship model should be based on a fair fight between the best players in the World, on equal terms. This should apply also to the winner of the previous World Championship, and especially so when there are several players at approximately the same level in the world elite. (Why should one player have one out of two tickets to the final to the detriment of all remaining players in the world? Imagine that the winner of the 2010 Football World Cup would be directly qualified to the 2014 World Cup final while all the rest of the teams would have to fight for the other spot.) (While Seng Sun dismissed Carlsen's comparison to football, I believe that Carlsen could have just as easily picked another sport, like badminton or squash or pool or snooker or darts or swimming or athletics or... (need I say more...), where the World Champion is not seeded into the final. Seng Sun totally ignored the point that the champion is seeded straight to the final. The argument was that this system was not fair. Carlsen may have picked the wrong sport to compare chess against, but the point still stands. In what sport do we see a champion seeded right into the final, be it team or individual?)

One possibility for future cycles would be to stage an 8-10 player World Championship tournament similar to the 2005 and 2007 events. (Seng Sun also made a big hoo-hah about this in saying that Carlsen totally wanted to throw away the match system and preferred a tournament system. Carlsen's intention was to provide an example of a fair system. He did not in any way say that he preferred a tournament system)

The proposal to abolish the privileges of the World Champion in the future is not in any way meant as criticism of, or an attack on, the reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand, who is a worthy World Champion, a role model chess colleague and a highly esteemed opponent.

Rest assured that I am still motivated to play competitive chess. My current plan is to continue to participate in well-organised top-level tournaments and to try to maintain the no 1 spot on the rating list that I have successfully defended for most of 2010.

Best regards,

IGM Magnus Carlsen
Now, my take on the issue. While my comments above may appear to defend Carlsen's actions, rest assured that my intention was only to straighten out the facts misconstrued by poor reporting. I still think that Carlsen is being a stupid spoilt child for withdrawing from the cycle. Yes, the system is flawed. Yes, it is not fair. But it would only seem very unprofessional to just quit the World Championship cycle, considering his goal would be to prove that he is the best in the world. He should find added motivation that by winning the world championship with the odds stacked against him is even more proof that he is that great a player.

Despite all the muck-ups by FIDE throughout all these years, almost every other chess player has chosen to abide by the decisions of FIDE (poor or otherwise), and continue to compete. The renegades here are none other than Bobby Fischer, Kasparov and a few others. Is Carlsen trying to go down that road? Unlikely. However, I do think that he still has much to grow in terms of maturity and conduct. Even Kasparov has discontinued from working with him because of his poor work ethics. Maybe he is beginning to think he is too good for the system. While the technique and finesse in Carlsen's game is my cup of tea, I have always found it hard to root for a young upstart who has very little regard and respect for the system.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Secret to Chess

In the spirit of sharing and reform, I have decided to work to add positive value to all readers and since I found something interesting, I will also put it here just in case some of you may have missed it. Below is a video which describes and exhibits a simple way of thinking in chess which I love to employ. Simple but effective. But since people may not consider someone with a name like The Chess Ninja to be a credible source, let me allow GM Maurice Ashley to share his invaluable opinion with you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Openings: Theory and Practice

Although I first saw this article on FireyRook's site, I shall link the primary source to all of you in case you missed it. The article on openings was written by WGM Natalia Pogonina. She may not be the best female player around (we all know who that is), but she is still a WGM. If you wish to know more about Natalia, here is the wikipedia link.

This is how a professional thinks about an opening, as opposed to a mind coach who does not play chess.

In the article, you will find tips on how to study openings, what is the purpose of preparing openings and what are the factors that should influence one's choice of openings.

Hopefully, some of us can find this information more useful than others. Click here to check it out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Of Real Estate and Chess

What does real estate have to do with chess? Almost nothing. In one of the books written by real estate investment guru, Robert Kiyosaki, it asked the blunt and rhetorical question, "Would you consult your stock broker when you want to invest in real estate?".

What does your stock broker really know about real estate? True, they can both be seen as investment vehicles, but they are totally different in nature and in form. Even the philosophy and analysis involved is completely different. Without going too far astray, I suppose many of you can already guess the point I am trying to make. While chess is a game that applies the mind, I would not consult a mind coach on chess. Just like I would NEVER consult a stock broker on real estate.

The mind coach sees that the only reason anyone disagrees with him is that they are scared. He speaks like God, the all-knowing, the omniscient, because he can see all the facts, and everyone else can't. Many readers have pointed out that I often criticize negatively without pointing out any positive contribution towards chess. I do not make suggestions to help people improve. As I have explained umpteen times, my purpose is to expose the frauds that exist in the chess arena. By hook or by crook, the evil forces shall perish. That is the only way chess can move forward in Malaysia. That is the way of the Ninja.

Nonetheless, in my effort to reform, I shall give my two cents worth about thinking in chess, just to satisfy my feeling of insecurity. Just in case people are starting to think that I do not talk about chess because I play less chess than Raymond Siew and an anteater combined. Maybe I am just imagining my fears.

John Wong has already dealt with what technical evaluation is and what not, so I will not go into further detail in that. He does have some really good book recommendations and if you're interested, do visit his site.

The mind coach suggests looking at the chess board with a still mind. What this means is to shut out emotion because it supposedly clouds your judgement. Is this really true? I am a huge advocate of winning via external forces. Of course, it is already a given that one's technical must first be strong. Using external forces include using things other than pure chess skills to gain the edge. I talked about this before. One can even use the playing hall environment to win. In a tight battle, every single bit of edge counts. Just like Sun Tzu would choose to fight a battle with the glare in his enemy's eyes.

But besides that, one can also use emotions to win the game. Even the mind coach himself has talked about this before. He talked about the importance of confidence. Is that not an emotion? A sure sign of someone who does not know what he is talking about is the high frequency of his contradictions. Confidence allows one to trust his judgement, which consequently allows one to follow through with his plans, even though he cannot see the end of his calculation. Some people attribute this to intuition.

Remember the Kasparov-Anand match in 1995? After Kasparov lost Game 9, he went berserk and channelled his "frustration/anger/revenge mode" into his chess and unleashed a novelty in Game 10 that shocked Anand to the core. Kasparov was even slamming the doors of the playing hall after making every move in a few seconds without thinking, just to mess with Anand's head. In fact, this affected Anand so badly that he did not recover in the match. Anand went on to lose Games 10, 11, 13, and 14. The match was over by then. In this case, Kasparov used emotions to his advantage. This goes on to show that whether you like it or not, emotions exist in the game of chess (among humans of course). It is up to us to use them to our advantage.

If you remove the emotional component from chess, then it is just like two computers playing. In fact, I can even argue that, if one can play his best chess by removing emotions, then chess must be dominated by computers. How then, can humans defeat computers? Some claim it is the human judgement. But where does this judgement come from? Most certainly, humans cannot outcalculate computers. Positional judgement arises from a human's ability to "feel" how good a particular position is. It is not something that one "sees" on the board. Maybe this is the antithesis to "imagined fears". It is "imagined courage". Seeing something that is not really there?

So, the takeaway from this post is that, emotions are very much a part of chess. Use it to your advantage. The Great Kasparov has shown that you can even control your opponent's emotions. That is a mark of a true strategist, something Sun Tzu would have been proud of.

P/S: Do not consult your stock broker about real estate. Also, it would be unwise to consult your real estate agent about stock investment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Good Joke

The greatest insult

Do you know that the greatest insult you can give someone is to tell them what to think? What is the underlying assumption? Why dont you just give them the facts and let them decide for themselves? Why do you need half truths, lies, rejection, innuendos etc? What does that say about you? 
What does that say about you, indeed. The greatest insult you can give out, is when you insult yourself. Expounding thoughts and ideas but refusing to accept criticism. Then call the critics liars. Then commit the very same crimes you so willingly accuse your critics of. Hypocrisy is the greatest insult to your own intelligence. Here is one example:

Chess is a game of immense beauty

And the beauty comes from its paradoxical nature. From the very fact that it has few variables it can display the tremendous creativity of its exponents. Some breath taking games are breath taking simply because of the ingenious solutions within those constraints (A fact? Half-truth? Innuendo? A battle of two personalities in a game of infinite possibilities has few variables?).

Chess is also a game of change because it very clearly demonstrates that the decision you make in the moment can have an astounding impact on the end result.

So the essence of the game itself refutes the arguments of the people who argues on the wrong side of nature vs nurture. The proponents of nature is blind to change (A fact? Half-truth? Innuendo? Nature doesn't change? Why must we only choose one? Why not part nature, part nurture? Best of both worlds?).

The beauty of chess is revealed when you can understand paradox; when you understand that its true nature is that it reveals who you are. There is not much technical and so the immense battle for the higher levels is the battle for the control of your mind (A fact? Half-truth? Innuendo? You must believe this, or else you are blind! Because it is a fact).

And so the real battle for excellence is the struggle not to be trumatised by the struggle itself. And so the need for clean competitions. And so the need for correct preparation.

The people who can only understand contradictions cannot see that. They cannot accept change and so they will deny the evidence even when it is presented directly in front of their eyes. And in doing so they will condemn themselves to staying stagnant and playing a low level of the game (You must think like this, or else you will always be blindfolded. This is what I am telling you to think).

This is self evident. This is demonstrated by chess. Look with a still mind and you will see (A fact? Half-truth? Innuendo?).
In case you all fail to notice, the two articles quoted above are from the same author. In one article, he condemns people for telling others what to think. Then in another, he tells people exactly what to think.

Why am I doing this? Well, as the title of the post suggests, it is purely for entertainment. You should not expect your chess to improve from reading this post. On the other hand, you MAY not worsen your chess skills by being selective with your reading. I suppose that is an improvement.