The cycle of life ebbs and flows with some periods being more demanding than others. August to October of this year has been particularly demanding, which forced me to cut down on my chess writing and playing. Curiously, that break preceded a jump in my online game successes both in live challenges and on the damnable Chess.com Tactics Trainer. My online ELO currently sits at 1101, which is the first time it has surpassed that benchmark since March 13 of this year.
Pretty charts, but still a long way to go. (Credit: Chess.com/Campfire Chess)
Of course, some of my recent wins were clearly undeserved (abandoned by opponent, etc.) but I believe that many of them are starting to reflect my constant dedication to studying and learning about the game. For example,
Winning and losing in chess is like the tides, so I am trying to prepare myself mentally for the time when the wins don’t come and the only way ahead seems to be down, like this heartbreaking loss:
I am not sure why I have struggled to finish this review, but hopefully this 4th draft will be the final version. This also turned out to be the first post of July 2016. Normally, I would already have posted several entries, but this is been a challenging month.
Alas, on to the review we go…
Like most chess players, there are certain games and moves that have left an unmistakable influence on my life. Of course, classic games like Morphy’s Opera Game and Fischer Game of the Century are highlights, but some classic games of Staunton, Casablanca have earned their way into my collection of PGN databases and FEN diagrams. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered a DVD on the growing Chessbase library that brings many of those games together in a single collection: GM Simon Williams’ Most Amazing Moves. Although the DVD itself was published in January 2015, I only recently managed to pick up a copy and go through it in its entirety.
The DVD Itself
Most Amazing Moves is a 4-hour collection of video commentary by GM Williams on a mixed collection of games featuring some of his own experiences intermixed with games from the greatest players in history. Combined with his unique brand of humor, Williams provides the viewer with an exciting overview of the games and exploration of how some seemingly small moves can change the course of a game or even the course of chess history. If British humor is not something you are accustomed to, and some of his comments could seem offputting. However, I found all of his commentary and insights into the games extremely refreshing.
The DVD itself begins with some relatively popular classical games, but it is the exploration of key moments in these games that separates this DVD apart from others. Personally, as a man who is fully aware of his chess deficiencies, I enjoyed Simon’s repeated jabs at the viewer further assumed inability to see the most amazing move and the meaning behind what makes it such an amazing move. Throughout the DVD, Simon begins by offering brief commentary on each game before moving on to a Chessbase quiz that allows the user to guess the next set of moves. There were moments in these quizzes where it seemed that no amount of calculation or guessing allowed me to determine the correct move. However, there were other times when I was able to guess the correct move, but only because it fit with a theme carried over from one or two games earlier. Or, I was able to determine the correct move but not immediately ascertain exactly why it was such an amazing move. Fortunately, Simon provides detailed explanation of the moves and even some witty comments on variations that can be selected by the user. Some of those variations come with honest and heartfelt chess instruction while others are met with a look of disdain and utter confusion and why the person would even consider trying to guess the moves. Here is an example of the gems that make up the bulk of the DVD:
While there are many examples of amazing tactics demonstrated throughout the DVD, Williams does not focus exclusively on tactics and also provides the user some opportunities to review great positional chess games as well. This variety as a unique flavor to the DVD which helps to diversify its target audience and simply add to the overall fun of watching some of the greatest chess games in history.
About the Author
GM Simon Williams is from Surrey, England and earned the title of Grandmaster in 2008 after finishing his third GM-norm at the Hastings International Chess Congress. While he continues to play in a variety of settings, Williams has recently transitioned from playing regularly in tournaments to focusing on chess commentary, tournament organization, and publishing. He runs his own website which is published a series of instructional DVDs and he is well-known for his commentary on Chessbase and Chess24. His sense of humor and depth of chess knowledge add a unique flavor to his instruction and commentary that, in my opinion, is much needed in the world of professional chess.
It is apparent throughout the DVD that Williams had a blast organizing, researching, and filming this product. There are many examples in the DVD from his own games and he is not shy about acknowledging the perception that can come with focusing on himself in a DVD titled Most Amazing Moves, but there are no instances throughout the four hours of DVD commentary and instruction where I felt that a game or move had been represented that was not amazing in itself.
As I write this review, Most Amazing Moves is available in the Chessbase Shop for €29.90 and is available on physical media or via download option. For that price, which is consistent of most of Chessbase’s DVDs, it is an exceptional bargain for such an amazing collection of games. Both beginners, intermediate, and advanced players will appreciate the nuances of these amazing moves. If you do not have a copy of Chessbase, the DVD itself comes with a copy of Chessbase Reader or you can download the free Chessbase Reader from here. I give it 4.5 pawns out of 5.
December is here and that means Christmas is just around the corner! It is hard for me to believe that so much time has gone by! Campfire Chess will celebrate its 2-year anniversary in May and we’ve averaged around 50 visitors a day since August of this year! If the internet could be imagined as a city then Campfire Chess is like a novelty comic book shop in a strip mall. Even Best Buy and some of the most successful businesses in the world started out small, so we are on our way! November was a lot of fun for me because my chess activities were up-and-down as usual but ended on a very high note. I closed out the month of November 2015 with a win that gave me my highest online ELO ever: 1073! I am very excited with the level of improvement I have gained in the last 2 years of tracking my chess studies. My online ELO was around 650 in May 2014 when I opened Campfire Chess as Off My Chess. 1073 represents almost a 100% improvement which is not too shabby for a guy who is going to university full time, raising two kids, working full time, and supporting a family. In addition, my chess studies and improvement are without the assistance of an OTB coach although I am utilizing the Tactics Trainer and Chess Mentor over at Chess.com.
In reflecting on this milestone I would like to share two of my favorite annotated games from November. The first game is an 9 move game that could be described as an assasination…
I am attending a school in Philly, so the next game was annotated on an American Airlines 737 from Dallas to Philadelphia earlier this week. This game was a lot of fun and had me on the edge of my seat several times throughout.
I anticipate completing my Masters of Divinity in March so I hope to devote more attention to the rest of the blog. I recently began reworking the reading list this week and plan to add the movie list which has been in production since July 2014. Chess is growing around the world and 2016 looks to be even better than this year! Stay tuned!
Recently I have been working with the Peshk@ training tool from ChessOK. Aside from studying opening theory I have also tried brushing up on my tactical abilities. It was not until recently that I was able to identify some of those tactics in games that I have been playing online. One game in particular struck me as an exceptional tactical win and it was played on the Live Chess server at Chess.com. I have annotated it here:
Internet Opponent vs. AmishHacker
Chess.com | Live Chess | October 08, 2015
1.e4 A standard and powerful opening move. White is vying for control of the center.
1…d5 Immediately challenging White’s push for the center. Most of my online opponents take the exchange as my opponent in this game did.
2.exd5 White accepts the exchange. 2…Qxd5 The exchange is complete but I have to be careful bringing my Queen out so early in the game. In this position she is vulnerable to attack on several fronts.
3.Nc3 White immediately engages my Queen. 3…Qd8 Moving my Queen back to safety to continue developing my pieces.
4.d4 b6 Preparing a clear space for my Bishop to develop. 5.Bb5+ White obviously wants to show that he is in an aggressive mood. This also delays my Bishop’s development and forces a response rather than expansion of my attack forces. 5…Bd7 A direct challenge to the attack. I am also in a mood to fight.
6.Qg4 White doubles up his attack on the d7 Bishop. Much of the attack is counterbalanced but there is danger here if I do not play with precision.
6…e6 7.Bg5 f6 8.Qxe6+ A strong move since the d7 Bishop is pinned by the b5 Bishop. The attack on my position was well coordinated and there were several opportunities for Black to exploit weakness. 8…Be7 [8…Ne7 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Qxf6 And White is comfortably winning.] 9.Qxd7+?? Was played in the game. A tragic error that cost White his Queen and the game. It seems that he failed to notice the b8 Knight defending the d7 square.
[9.Bxd7+ Qxd7 does nothing.]9…Nxd7!! The only reasoanble response to White’s blunder. 10.Bf4 Obviously blindsided by the devastating blunder, White retreats his Bishop in an attempt to regroup and recover with a new strategy. 10…g5 11.Bg3 Bd6 12.0-0-0 Ne7 13.Re1 A nice pin, but I am still able to castle to safety. 13…0-0 14.Bc4+ This attack seems only designed to force my King from its safety net. 14…Kh8 15.Nf3 c6!? This move made me nervous because it isolated my d6 Bishop and almost handed White the initiative. However, my opponent did not see the move and chose a different path. 16.d5?? The second major blunder of the game missing Bxd6!! 16…Bc5 17.dxc6 Nxc6 18.Nd5 Re8 19.Nc7 Rxe1+ A tactical sacrifice designed merely to delay White’s capture of the Rook. 20.Nxe1?? My opponent suprrised me again with this move. Normally the response would be Rxe1! but the choice to go with the Knight prevents the Rook from developing and leaves White handicapped.
[Much better was: 20.Rxe1 g4 21.Nd2] 20…Rc8 21.Ne6 Qe7 22.Nd3 Nd4 23.Re1 Nxe6 24.Rxe6 Qf7 25.Rc6?! My opponent struck back with a poorly planned tactic. He threatens to take my c8 Rook and believes that I will place such a high value on it that I would miss his Bishop threatening my Queen. However, the Bishop capture was much more valuable. 25…Qxc4 26.Rxc8+ Kg7 27.a3 Qd4 Moving out of the way in preparatiion for b3. 28.Rd8 Bxa3!! I debated this one for awhile, but recent tactics studies boosted my confidence in this sacrifice. 29.bxa3 Qa1+!! This was a turning point in the game as White took the bait and my Queen began to systematically ravage his forces through forced moves. 30.Kd2 Qd4 31.c3 Qd5 32.f3 Qa2+ 33.Ke3 Qxa3 34.Rxd7+ I got nervous here because now I was down to only a Queen and 3 pawns while my opponent still had several minor pieces to work with. 34…Kg6 35.c4 Qf8 36.Rxa7 Qe8+ 37.Kf2 Qc6 38.Rc7 This demonstrates the power of a well-placed Bishop. Although I had confidence in a positive outcome for me, White’s Bishop on g3 was devastating to my attack plans. 38…Qa4 39.c5 Qc2+ 40.Ke3 bxc5 41.Rxc5 Qxg2 42.Rc6 Qg1+ 43.Ke2 Kf5 With few pieces left it was time to bring my King into the action. Instead of running from the Rook, my King now became an active part of my assault on White’s position. 44.f4 Qg2+!! A tactical and psychologically devastating attack! White’s Rook is lost and I continue to pick off his pieces one-by-one.
45.Nf2 Qxc6 46.Ke3 gxf4+ 47.Bxf4 Qc1+!! Another piece falls to tactics! White cannot save the Bishop and suddenly he finds himself in a perilous position. 48.Kf3 Qxf4+ 49.Kg2 h5 50.h3 h4 51.Kf1 Qg3 52.Ke2 Qg2 53.Ke3 Kg5 54.Ne4+! A decent move to keep my King from chasing the h3 pawn. 54…Kf5!! An even better move to force White to consider the future of his Knight. 55.Kd4?? My opponent missed several opportunities in this game and I think this was simply a result of indecision. The Knight is lost since the King will defend any attack.
55…Qxe4+ 56.Kc3 Qe3+ 57.Kc2 Qxh3 The last of my opponent’s pieces are gone. The rest is self-explanatory. 58.Kd2 Qg3 59.Ke2 h3 60.Kf1 h2 61.Ke2 h1Q 62.Kd2 Qhh2+ 63.Kd1 Qgg1# AmishHacker won by checkmate 0-1