Still Lecturing…

by admin on September 26, 2012

Though it may not seem like it, I’m still recording lectures for ChessLecture. I recorded one today on an interesting game from Week 3 of the U.S. Chess League, in which IM Levan Bregadze of St. Louis destroyed Samuel Sevian of San Francisco in 31 moves. I have played Sevian twice, I believe, both games ending in draws, and I have found his playing style to be extremely solid and well-nigh indestructible (though somewhat lacking in ambition).

Sevian is, of course, the youngest national master in U.S. history, and he has two IM norms already at age 11. I think there’s a good chance he will be an International Master by age 12. That would be too old to beat Sergei Karjakin’s world record (11 years 11 months), but still pretty respectable!

So I have to admit to some self-serving interest in the Bregadze-Sevian game, because I wanted to know how you beat somebody like that, especially when it’s somebody that I might play again.

Well, the answer is that you play a type of game that I have never played in my life. Bregadze never made a single tactical threat for the first 30 moves of a 31-move game. It was just maneuver, maneuver, maneuver, push, push, push, and BAM! He threatens to win a pawn, and Sevian can’t defend it. It’s not just any old pawn. Bregadze will end up with a protected passed pawn on the sixth rank. So Sevian resigned then and there.

To me this sort of game, which is played at a 100-percent strategic level, always looks like magic. Tactics I understand. I get how you can beat somebody by calculating one move farther, by seeing a tactical trick that they don’t. But how do you beat someone (let alone a 2400 player) without ever having to calculate a single variation? It amazes me.

So basically this ChessLecture was an attempt to answer that question for myself. I think that I did come to a pretty good understanding of how Bregadze did it. It actually had to do mostly with a misconception on Sevian’s part. For more details, you’ll just have to listen to my lecture!

That brings me to a second topic for this post. Just when are you going to be able to hear my lecture? I now have a reliable estimate of how big the backlog is at ChessLecture, and it’s HUGE. A lecture that I recorded on May 1 is finally going to go online tomorrow, September 27. That’s almost a five-month backlog. That means the lecture I recorded today will probably air sometime in March, after the U.S. Chess League season is long finished and nobody cares about it any more.

Sigh.

I don’t want to complain about a mostly good thing, but I think that the current management is making a mistake by accumulating such a huge backlog of lectures. The old management had the opposite problem. Most of the time they had no backlog at all, and we know how that worked out… eventually they couldn’t keep up. That was really bad. When people pay for something, you have to deliver it, and in a timely fashion. The failure to do so dealt a blow to ChessLecture that I think it still hasn’t recovered from.

So it definitely makes sense for the new management to want some protection. I could see having a backlog of, say, a couple weeks or a month. But five months? The lecturers can no longer give lectures that are timely.

I keep getting messages from people saying, “I miss your ChessLectures! Why aren’t you doing them any more?” The answer is that I am, and you’ll get one tomorrow. As for the others, I guess you’ll just have to wait… and wait…

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Praveen September 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Ah Sevian. I was sitting next to my very noble team leader who was outrated by the kid by 300 points in the US Amateur Team west tourney earlier in the year. My captain saved the game with great difficulty (much to his opponent’s chagrin); while I beat Manvelyan on board 2.

I just love games like those where you just do nothing. The thing with such games is that you need to have an amazing understanding of where the opponent’s counterplay resides. So there are two possibilities – either the oppressed opponent resorts to faulty counterplay, or just sits and falls apart slowly. The second case is all very good, when it works. But if you lack the manoeuvring skill, one might give it all away with some subtle inaccuracy. And in the first, it is easy to make a mistake against faulty but complicated play. Either way, one is screwed. But when it works it’s beautiful.

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Matt October 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Re: ChessLecture

It seems to me that they should start posting lectures on Saturdays and Sundays. I am not too sure what the reasoning is behind only posting new lectures Monday to Friday, although perhaps the old problem of having too small of a backlog is partly responsible.

Having lectures posted on weekends would help decrease the current backlog, or at least stop it from growing. I have to imagine that, as time goes by, that five month backlog is only to increase to six months, then seven, etc.

Alternatively, they could post two lectures a day, at least for a period of time. There is no need to keep the current structure of only posting five lectures a week. I would be prepared to pay a little more for unlimited access to the backlog of lectures. I’m sure others would be too. That’s something they could consider: introduce another premium payment option (or expand the most expensive existing option) that would give the user unlimited access to the backlog. Users who are happy with one lecture every weekday can just pay a lower rate.

I don’t really see any negatives to this, except that the premium payment users will get to see some lectures months before the lower payment users do. But so what? That’s what they are paying extra for!

What are your thoughts, Dana?

-Matt

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