Perceptual Pawn

About the wonder of chess, and why a board game can be captivating far beyond just winning or losing.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Review of Chess Bitch.

Having read the book Chess Bitch by Jennifer Shahade, I found it both inspirational and distressing.

First of all I have to state that I like Jennifer Shahade's book a lot! It brings to the surface the views of so many men (and scaringly enough some women) that women are inferior merely by being women. It's not something new, after all women are without competition the biggest systematically discriminated group there is.

The book starts out by describing the early female chess players and their careers. It gives a good account of both the players and the beginnings of female participation in chess. It goes on with describing the emergence of the Georgian dynasty of players followed by the Polgars and the Chinese.

The book brings up the matter of women's chess tournaments and gender based titles, something I have had (and still have) a difficult time understanding the need for. Objectively there isn't a need for that, but in reality as long as the views of gender inequality persists I can understand why many women would want to play among themselves. After all that is what men has done themselves this far. But as I say with fairer (more equal) conditions between men and women it wouldn't be needed at all.

I found the description of how it is to play as a (semi) professional player travelling around the world to tournaments to be very thrilling, and how hard it is to make a living as a chessplayer where the prize money for women until recently has been very modest.

The latter part of the book isn't as interesting as the former, but I still like the accounts of various female chess players and their encounters with chess, and how the interest varied both with increasing age and other conflicting interests.

All in all, I enjoyed reading the book and I found it very inspirational to know something of how female participation in the chess world emerged.

When is your next book coming, Jennifer?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chess books on the way.

I've ordered some new chess books.

I want to improve my tactics and my endgame skills so I've ordered the following books:

  • "One Thousand and One Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations" by Fred Reinfeld.

  • "Chess : 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games" by Laszlo Polgar

  • "Concise Chess Endings (Everyman Chess)" by Neil McDonald.

  • "Chess Bitch: Women In The Ultimate Intellectual Sport" by Jennifer Shahade.

I hope they will help me to improve my chess. I think I need better tactics most of all. I'd also like some help in formulating a good plan for my games. Someone has recommended: "The Amateur's Mind" by Silman. I might consider that one next time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A new league is born!

There is a new internet chess league out there.

From what I've heard, the people who ran the tourneys at had agreed to split their league in two since there is no crossplay between ICC and FICS any longer. The new league is called: FICS Team League.

During preparation for the split, there was some sort of falling out between the developers at and FICS Team League, and the result was the new league found themselves without any of the website source code that the established league were using to run the tourneys.

This however didn't stop the new league from forming. There is a lot of work in progress to make the new league work as it should, and round one of the first tourney in the new league has just kicked off this week.

The games are played with the time control of 45 minutes with 45 second increments, just as before. Every won game earns a game point and the team with the most game points gets the match point for that round, and the team with the most match points after regulation play wins the division and get to play in the sectional final.

I have joined the "Knightly Carnage" team in the Erg section (U1600), and also the "All Good People II" team in the Aquatic section (U1800). I'm really looking forward to the start of the tourney.

Go visit the new leagues website and see if this is a tourney that would suit you as well.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Some small changes and updates...

I've changed some things in the blog.

First off I recently changed the url to what it is now, since I wanted it to be more neutral than before and I also liked using "chessgrrl" in the url since I've used that handle before. Then I've added a link to Jennifer Shahade's website, and also to Boylston Chess Club's Weblog. I can recommend a visit to both sites.

I am very keen on getting Jen's book "Chess bitch", and when I've read it I'll post a review here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The art of trading

When is it good to trade pieces and when is it bad?

It starts early in the middlegame and continues on into the endgame. The confusion, the insecurity. When should I exchange a piece? When is it to my advantage? Making a trade of material sounds uncomplicated and straighforward doesn't it? I take one of his pieces and my opponent reciprocates, and all is still equal on both sides. Or is it?

I have come to realise that sometimes I can get an advantage if I trade one of my inactive pieces for an active piece of my opponent. For instance the classical bad bishop vs good bishop scenario, or trade a bishop for a knight in a closed game. A knight and a bishop are usually considered to be of the same value, but it all depends on how the board looks. On an open board the bishop is often better since it can utilise it's scope along the diagonals, while in a closed game a bishop is much less useful and it's often preferrable to have a knight instead that can jump over the obstacles on the board.

Here are some "rules of trading" that I have found to be useful.

  1. Trade when you're ahead
  2. Trade to get the better piece
  3. Trade when you're in a cramped position
  4. Trade to get rid of an opponents powerful piece

The first rule is pretty obvious since the advantage of having, for instance an extra pawn increases when the number of pawns get less and less. If at first I have 6 pawn to my opponents 5, then after trading off 4 pawns, suddenly I have twice as many pawns as my opponent, namely 2 against 1, which often can be decisive in an endgame.

The second rule is about realising which pieces are best/worst in a given situation and trying to get the better piece while burdening the opponent with the "bad" piece.

Number 3 is also fairly self-explanatory. If you are in cramped position it's difficult to develop your army, so you want to open up lines of attack in order to expand. A trade is often what is needed to accomplish that.

Rule 4 applies when for instance your opponent has a powerful attack going. If you can trade off his/hers attacking pieces the attack dies and you can stop defending and start an attack of your own.

If I can keep these "rules" in mind, I may be less uncertain when I have to decide if I should trade or not