Posted April 25, 2022 in Chess.com, Other, Technology

Chess.com Is Lost

I’ve been openly critical of major chess websites before. ChessBase and Chess.com regularly receive praise here on Campfire Chess when they do things that further the development and promotion of the game, but they also get flamed when I believe that its necessary. This week, Chess.com went far beyond the necessity for a simple commentary. They’ve crossed into territory that should be unsettling for anyone who values our game. In fact, it’s my opinion that Chess.com has become so lost and has moved so far away from actual chess that I’ve made the unfortunate decision to stop playing and contributing to it for the foreseeable future.

Wasted Opportunities

Over the years, I’ve watched as Chess.com focused its attention on hideous endeavors like POG Champs and promotions that were designed to drive Twitch views more than actually promote the game in way that focused on longevity. Short-term exploitation of the Queen’s Gambit boom has led to negligible increase in the game’s long term interest. Then, they spent extraordinary amounts of money to house the Botez sisters in a Big Brother-like mansion in the name of (somehow) promoting the game. Yet, we haven’t really heard anything about it since. Why? Most likely because it doesn’t appeal to the wider chess audience and it’s a ridiculous waste of funds generated by site memberships.

And what did they learn from the fizzling of these activities? Absolutely nothing…

Selling Their Souls for NFTs

I have to admit that I was beyond furious when Chess.com announced its new NFT website, Treasure Chess. Now YOU TOO can mint your special 300 ELO Scholar’s Mate and charge $3000 on Chess.com for people to “own” it. No other technology available today infuriates me more than the peddling of cryptocurrency garbage like Non Fungible Tokens (NTFs). Or, as I prefer to call them, No F**king Thanks. This could be the first foul language moment in this blog’s history, but that’s okay. It’s time.

NFTs are one of the greatest pyramid schemes to emerge (so far) in the 21st Century. It’s a technology that prays on people’s lack of understanding of blockchain and cryptologic technology to get them to buy art, music, and now…chess games. These sites promise ownership of the purchased item, but all you own is a digital receipt or hyperlink to a receipt identifying you as the owner. Nothing stops other users from screenshotting the art, downloading the music, or retrieving a chess game from a database and posting it in another place. In essence, you own nothing.

On top of the fact that NFTs promise the future but deliver nothing, the power required to generate the crypto receipts for NFTs is enormous. It’s contributed to the insane price of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) these days and the increased energy consumption is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our planet.

Done for Now

I realize that Chess.com is not an airport and there is no reason for my to announce my departure. However, I have been blogging about chess for 8 years now and a majority of the games, analysis, and stories have come from Chess.com. I’ve watched the site evolve from a competent and inviting community for people to grow, learn, and connect through chess…into a monstrosity. I have hope that one day Chess.com will find its away again, but until then, I simply cannot continue to support the site through a premium membership or paid verification. Until the insanity is reigned in at Chess.com, you’ll find all of my future content here on the blog and at lichess.org.

Game on, campers!
Ex

Posted April 21, 2022 in Game Analysis, My Chess Journey

Game Analysis – The Missile!

I’ve played some of the best chess of my entire life over the past few months. There were nerve-wrecking wins and heartbreaking losses, but all of them were wonderful opportunities to hone my skills and keep getting better. I chose to analyze and comment on this game because I felt that it is an important instructional moment. My opponent played solid chess until about midway through the game when he made a critical error and allowed me full access to his defenses. I hope you enjoy!

Following this victory, my online rating sits at an astounding (for me) 1340!

Game on, campers!
Ex

Posted April 11, 2022 in My Chess Journey

My Best Rating Improvement Ever!

Pretty much everything in my life over the last year has been a whirlwind, and chess was not exempt from that chaos. It had been a long time since I played chess regularly when I started playing again in May of 2021. So many times before I would dive headfirst into chess with an massively unrealistic set of goals and expectations. Eventually I’d realize that those goals were unachievable and give up chess for a while.

This time, things have been different…

Focusing heavily on Daily (e-correspondence) chess, I’ve seen a massive improvement in the quality of my gameplay and my overall rating. What was typically a 50-100 point increase had jumped threefold over the past twelve months with a monumental jump from 800 to 1300 ELO!

There have been bumps in the road along the way, but the quality of my play and my confidence has gradually increased throughout the year. It was only recently that I took time to pull up my stats on Chess.com and see how much I have actually improved. But what exactly has changed from before?

Well, for starters, I’ve switched to much slower forms of chess. I’ve realized that my PTSD does not give me the focus and response time necessary to play blitz and bullet chess for serious rating. They’re okay for fun, but they’re often brutally messy and not nearly as positive an outcome as the more classical variants and daily chess. In addition, I’ve been regularly watching YouTube chess videos and reading through games of my favorite players (Morphy, Fischer, Larsen, etc.). Occasionally I’ll recognize a position or tactic in one of my games that I’ve seen in those books, but mostly reading keeps me in the mode and focused on playing the game.

Here’s a perfect example of recent play that I’m very proud of. This particular game was rough and ended with a beautiful tactic to win my opponent’s queen:

There’s still so much to learn and so much to do! I recognize that it takes hard work to play this game and I don’t expect to ever play at a master level. I also recognize that I’ll face slumps and dips, but I am reaching a point where I feel confident enough that I can continue to play and improve in a way that is reasonable and reachable.

Game on, Campers!
Ex

Posted December 29, 2021 in Reviews

Book Look: How to Study Chess on Your Own

I’ve been playing chess regularly since 2014 and have made (in my opinion) minimal progress. Well, I guess you could say that I haven’t made the progress that I expected after devoting so much time to reading, studying, and playing. That’s one reason that I’m always on the lookout for new materials and new ideas to help me improve my game. That’s why I was very excited to read GM Davorin Kuljasevic’s new book How to Study Chess on Your Own. This is the honest review of a < 1200 ELO player. So, let’s begin…

I learned about this book from the Perpetual Chess podcast. Which, if you’ve never listened, you’re missing out! The title alone drew me to it because I tend to be an isolated chess player. I play correspondence games regularly, read and follow games in books/magazines, and play a lot against my DGT Centaur chess computer. I wanted something that might help me understand why my improvement was so stagnant. So, I put away all the other chess books and projects I was working on and focused solely on How to Study exclusively for the next few weeks.

The Study Advice

For the purposes of this review, I am going to divide the book into two sections: The Study Advice and The Games. The study advice offered by GM Kuljasevic throughout the book is interlaced with a variety of Grandmaster and student games that are used to illustrate the various principles explained in each chapter. The study options presented are very down-to-earth and application-driven. There’s very little “theory” involved in the advice he gives. Instead, he digs down and shows how the variety of tools at a chess player’s disposal these days can be used for a multitude of improvement opportunities.

Of particular interest to me was his advice for creating a study plan. This is a step that countless chess students (including myself) tend to ignore. I study and play chess a lot, but I realized that I didn’t have a solid plan of what I wanted to achieve and what steps I was going to take to achieve it. Not in the sense of “I want to be an IM in 5 years”. Instead, the advice is more practical and nuanced such as “I have 4 hours to study chess today, so 2 hours for openings, 1 hour for endgame, and 1 hour on tactics”.

Overall, I’d say that the advice in this book is a welcome addition to the growing library of chess improvement materials out there. It’s practical, sensible, and is flexible enough to where anyone from a lower-rated D-class player up to a Grandmaster could use it.

The Games

There are 71 annotated games and fragments scattered across How to Study Chess on Your Own. At first, I was following each of the games with my travel chess set at home and then using my iPad on my breaks at work. But I soon realized that despite the excellent study advice in the book, much of the game analysis was way over my head. There were principles explained that I understood but the application in many of these instances were still in the Grandmaster range. I felt like I wasn’t ready in my chess ability to get the most out of this analysis.

So, after playing through Game 15, I stopped reading/playing the games and focused on the meat of the book and its study recommendations. This is not to say that the analysis in the book isn’t excellent, because it is! There’s so much knowledge shared in these games that it was overwhelming for someone of my level. I know that I can’t speak for everyone, but I would assume that many lower rated players would have similar problems understanding the application of some of the more advanced concepts. I guess you can consider it a word of caution before digging into the variations and ideas that the games themselves present.

A New Library of Games

As I read through the book, I took note of the Grandmaster games and decided to put them together into a Chess.com library. I also played through the student games and fragments in the book for this collection. That library is free for access and download here and will eventually be added to the downloads section here on Campfire Chess.

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to truly unpack the depth of knowledge and expertise presented in How to Study Chess on Your Own. GM Davorin Kuljasevic obviously produced this as a labor of love. You can sense the passion he has for chess and the drive to help others improve their game. Of the chess books I’ve read recently, it’s most definitely one of my favorites. I only hope that over time I can improve in my game enough to go back through many of the annotated games and unlock their secrets!

Posted December 10, 2021 in Campfire Digest

Campfire Digest – December 10, 2021

Good Morning, campers! Welcome to Campfire Chess Digest for Friday, December 10, 2021! The World Chess Championship 2021 is still underway and it has certainly had a share of ups and downs, breathtaking and disappointing moments. There’s still much more chess to come before the year is done!

Here’s some of the best chess action we’ve seen this week:

Magnus Carlsen is…once again…World Chess Champion

https://www.chess.com/news/view/fide-world-chess-championship-2021-game-11
Magnus Carlsen cruised to defend his World Championship title for the fifth time this week against Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was one of the most lopsided and unusual championships I can recall. Ian just couldn’t capitalize on several opportunities presented to him by Magnus. And for another two years, Norway is king of world chess.

A World Record at the World Chess Championship

https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-2021-g6
Magnus Carlsen came out on top of an incredible 136 move game that set a world record for the longest chess game played in a world championship. The previous title was held by Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in the 1978 World Chess Championship.

A Century of Chess: Karlsbad 1907

https://www.chess.com/blog/kahns/a-century-of-chess-karlsbad-1907
Long before the Soviet Empire dominated the professional chess world, the German Empire’s elite held firmly to the title of the world’s best chess players. This exceptional article from Chess.com (a rarity these days) explores Akiba Rubinstine’s rise to prominence in the early part of the twentieth century.

World Rapid and Blitz Coming to Warsaw

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-world-rapid-and-blitz-championships-will-take-place-in-warsaw
The FIDE World Rapid and Blitz tournament will soon be making its way to Warsaw beginning on Christmas Day and running through December 31st.

Posted December 3, 2021 in Campfire Digest

Campfire Digest – December 3, 2021

Good Morning, campers! Welcome to Campfire Chess Digest for Friday, December 3, 2021! As you read this, the 2021 World Chess Championship rages (if you can call it that) in Dubai between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi. There’s no clear leader at this point but Nepo certainly put Magnus on the ropes a few times going into Thursday’s rest day.

Here’s some of the best chess action we’ve seen this week:

Anish Giri Annotates WCC 2021 Game 5

https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-2021-g5-expert-annotations
After the sleeper draw that was Game 5 of the World Chess Championship, GM Anish Giri published a very nice annotated game outlining some of the missed opportunities for both players.

Hikaru Nakamura Departs the FIDE World Ranking List

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-new-fide-world-ranking-list-december-2021
GM Hikaru Nakamura was nowhere to be found on the newly published FIDE World Ranking List because he has not been active in international tournament play for quite some time. He’s mostly traded those commitments for a life on Twitch these days.

Chess.com Remains Undisputed Clickbait Article Champion

https://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-coms-holiday-gift-buying-guide
Ten ways to mate your opponent in five moves… Ten streamers you wouldn’t want to play blitz with… and the list goes on and on. Maybe we could start making a list of Chess.com’s most click-baity articles. In any case, this year’s “Buying Guide” for the holidays is no better than the website’s recent forays into Bitcoin, PogChamps, and other nonsensical stuff.

Levon Aronian Joins the US Chess Federation

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/levon-aronian-completes-transfer-to-usa
The United States continues to build an impressive roster of players with the recent addition of GM Levon Aronian. He joins the ranks of recent additions such as GMs Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana.

The World Chess Championship 2021 continues today in Dubai live via Chess24’s YouTube channel. Chess.com has a stream with GMs Hess and Caruana, but I recommend the Chess24 stream as its less headache-inducing.

Posted October 20, 2021 in Game Analysis

Game Analysis – An Interesting Collapse

It’s been a while since I annotated one of my games. Part of that is IRL stuff that’s been getting in the way and part of it is that I haven’t played any games that intrigued me enough recently to annotate. This game is a little bit of an exception. Let’s go…

Posted August 17, 2021 in Game Analysis

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

Sometimes I get so frustrated when I make a blunder that I simply give up and rage quit the game. Making a mistake in a chess game can often be as frustrating as being spawn camped by some n00b in Call of Duty. This is something I’ve been actively working on for the past few months: trying to stay in the game despite the apparent hopelessness of the position. Now, there are times when its important to realize that you have no chance of winning and you’re just delaying the inevitable. A lone King versus a Rook and a bunch of pawns comes to mind. But when most of the pieces are still on the board, there’s little reason to give up so quickly. Such is the case with this game where I had to make a painful sacrifice early in the middlegame but was able to turn things around in the end.

Posted August 5, 2021 in Game Analysis

It’s Been a Bad Day

Today was rough all around. Network problems made my day job a challenge and I lost two daily chess games that I should have won. That’s not saying that my opponents didn’t deserve to win. They certainly played good games and came out on top, but there were so many ridiculous blunders today that have been so uncharacteristic of me lately. I managed, in extraordinary fashion, to blunder not one, but two Bishops today. Perhaps the analysis of these games is just a way of venting. I’m sure that I’ll bounce back…I always do. But wow, these are hard to stomach.

And shortly after that little gem was played, this happened…

At least tomorrow is a new day.

This post is simulcast on Chess.com. Check out Campfire Chess on Chess.com.

Posted July 25, 2021 in Game Analysis

Game Analysis – Chipping Away

I’ve lost quite a few disappointing games in the past couple of weeks, so this was a welcome and refreshing victory that gave me insight into some common problems I’ve been having. Given its (albeit brief) instructional value for myself, I felt it was worth a surface analysis and commentary. I hope you enjoy!