Listener games — great stuff!

by admin on January 15, 2008

Last week ChessLecture announced my new series, “Learn from Your Fellow Amateurs,” in which I will pick one listener-submitted game each month and lecture about it. So far I’ve gotten twelve submissions, which I think is a pretty good number — not too many, not too few. Last night I played over two of them, and all I can say is WOW! Two great, hard-fought games. I can’t wait to go over the other ten, if these are any indication of how good they’re going to be. It’s going to be awfully hard for me to pick just one.

Both of the games I played over last night illustrate themes that are near and dear to my heart. One of them is a game by a 1500-level player in the Fritz Variation of the Two Knights’ Defense. Of course, I play the Fighting Fritz myself and gave a lecture on it. In this game White plays a little bit of a side line, and Black handles it impeccably. Very impressive. The only drawback of this game, from the lecture point of view, is that 90 percent of Black’s moves are forced or obvious, and there is next to no strategy involved — it’s all tactics. But you know, that’s part of the point of the Fritz Variation. If White plays slightly inferior moves, all the tactics work for Black. You just have to have faith.

The second game, submitted by a 1600 player, features an unintentional queen sacrifice. Black got his queen trapped, and to make the best of it he gave up the queen for two pieces and a pawn. Sound familiar? Check out my game with David Pruess, which Ernest Hong flatteringly calls my “Immortal Game.” Or check out Ernest Hong’s own recent game, where he didn’t quite get enough compensation but nevertheless hung on for 35 moves and missed a fantastic chance to swindle his opponent.

Anyway, in the listener-submitted game Black probably does not get enough compensation for his queen, but his opponent relaxes and say, “Oh this is going to be easy,” and fails to press for an initiative. Sooner than you can say, “Sarah Connor Chronicles,” (*) Black has worked up a huge attack and buries the White king under an avalanche of rooks and bishops and knights and stuff.

These first two submissions demonstrate a point that I think most masters would agree with. When it comes to positions with purely tactical solutions, players with a 1500 or 1600 rating can play every bit as well as a master. So what’s the difference between C players and masters? First, the C players don’t have the strategic understanding to reach a position with a winning combo against a master. Second, they aren’t as good at “closing the deal.” There have been many, many times in chess club when I’ve been outplayed by a lower-rated player but wormed out of trouble with hocus-pocus, swindles, and better endgame play. And third, a C player is probably more inconsistent tactically than a master. The C player might play the tactics perfectly in some games, but miss them the next time.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what the next ten games have in store!

(*) “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is a new TV show that started this week, based on the “Terminator” movies. It looks pretty bad to me, but what my wife and I find most amusing is that the name of the show is almost impossible to say correctly! It keeps coming out as “Sarah Cronnor Conicals” or something like that.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Carina J. January 16, 2008 at 11:00 am

It sounds like the lectures about the games could have similarities with the book ‘The Amateur’s Mind’ by Jeremy Silman. I really loved that book, because it spelled out what lower rated players think and need to add to their game in order to improve it. It’s a nice focus to give a book/lectures, because you’re watching someone else’s mistakes for once, instead of your own. 🙂 I personally wouldn’t mind badly flawed games at all, as long as the alternatives/correct strategies are presented. It’s in situations like “oh no, he should have just played [insert move] but he didn’t..” that key points tend to stick. Perfect games by players who really understand chess are incredibly inspiring to watch (especially live, in blitz play 😀 ) but it also makes you feel like there’s a big gap between what you need to be/be able to do and what you are/able to do. Amateurish thinking, really, but that’s a common mindset for a lot of folks, I think. That’s the advantage to watching people’s mistakes. You can tell yourself maybe you’d have seen it! 😆

I’ve finished the Fischer drawing, with some delay! I ended up going into lots more detail than I’ve bothered with a digital drawing before, so it’s my best to date. I think no matter who I draw next, the Fischer portrait will be my favourite! I’m also having an exam at school tomorrow where they expect us to show what progress we’ve made during the last half year, and I think I’ll compare him to the first chess drawing I made, the ‘merciless lady’. 🙂 Maybe it would be a good idea to draw future chess cartoons in the style I’ve drawn the board this time? Time consuming, but it looks pretty.


Andy Hortillosa January 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm


It is amazing. He looks much younger in this picture. I agree, this is by far the better one compared to your Kasparov work. I love it.

On a different note, I am convinced there is a market for Amateur games as long as the thoughts by the player or players during the game are revealed. I do not want ideas or analysis after the game. This will give amateur players a window into amateur thinking. I cannot wait to see the games Dana will lecture on. I submitted a couple of games, one old and one just played in December at the North American Open.

By the way, my vision on my left eye is slowly returning. In fact, I am playing in a tournament this weekend.



Andy Hortillosa January 16, 2008 at 2:26 pm


Can you please send me the link again to the Kasparov drawing?



dribbling January 16, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Wonderful Fischer portrait, he looks like a beautiful angel. Those white wisps at the lower right corner are for artistic effect, or is somebody smoking? Or both? The visible part of the position is from a real game or was it made up? Congratulations!


Carina J. January 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Hahaha, it’s not someone smoking, if anyone has played the pc game Final Fantasy 7, they’ll recognize it as something inspired by the concept of ‘lifestream’. 🙂 Supposedly the soul of the planet. I originally intended to make it follow the squares controlled by different pieces, so the black Rook would have a lot of influence for example, because it’s a stronger piece than for example the Pawns, but I ended up making the black army’s version of energy to fire. It’s also a bit metaphorical for Fischer himself (I’m going to send him the picture 😆 ). Resenting the white light of understanding, and cooking in the fires of anger he made himself. 😎 It’s funny you mention ‘angel’, because that’s one of the only things I consciously made different from the reference picture on the back of a book I have of him.

I made the eyes more gentle, almost feminine, and also made him smile slightly. This was actually a kind of difficult issue for me, because I feel that when you draw a portrait of a man who for example rarely smiles, you mock or lose his personality by changing this in the picture. I’m still not a 100 percent comfortable with what I’ve done with his expression, but I’ll just have to be forgiven for my girlish tendancies to portrait this ‘hero’ as angelic and wide-eyed (bluegreen eyes, even! what colour are his eyes really?), because I didn’t have it in me to change it once I’d made it. 😛 I didn’t really want to.

About the position on the board, I’ve possibly doubled his c-Pawns, because I think it’s a Knight on c7 but the reference picture is so unsharp that it’s hard to tell and I just made it a Pawn because it’d be easier to recognize and, well, chess boards and pieces aren’t one of my natural strength, I spent an eternity getting it right, which was actually the case for everything else on the picture except the hair (hair always seems to be included when I draw, so it’s easy to draw now). But this is also why this pic is one of my favourites. It was so challenging, but instead of rushing through it, like you might make the mistake of rushing through an endgame, I just relaxed with the picture and didn’t give so much attention to finishing it. I think I’m actually going to miss getting up in the morning and begin the day with this picture. 😀 Haha. But I’m just gonna start another then, although I’ll take a break/rest first.

I’ve uploaded the Kasparov pic to my website now, although I should perhaps insert a slightly bigger version so the details are more visible.


admin January 17, 2008 at 10:26 am

Carina, what a great picture! Your comments on the “smoke” or lifestream were fascinating. I think that it’s just what you need to move the picture beyond a reproduction and really turn it into an artist’s statement. It enhances the emotional content of the original photograph, which is pretty bland. I also think that what you’ve done with the single white pawn is fantastic. You never see the white player, you just have the one pawn and all that energy behind it that is suggested by the “smoke.” By the way, I definitely feel as if it is the *White* pawn that feels menacing in this picture, even though you thought of White as representing the “white light of understanding.” Just shows that the same picture can have different interpretations. The idea of white as being menacing is a reversal of most people’s expectations, which I think is also a cool thing about this picture.

Andy, I’m glad your vision is improving and you’re getting to play in another tournament! Good luck!


Carina January 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

Oh, but to Fischer the Pawn of Understanding ( 😆 ) would be very menacing, because it would destroy his concept of identity, of who he believes he is/should be, just like ego is destroyed for anyone when they merge with the Lifestream, either through physical death or the death of their pride. 😎

The smoke around his King is meant to be the menacing White army that has targetted it, creeping underneath the board and seeping up through his square, though its colour is changed gradually to red = is fought off. 😀 I tried to make the picture a representation of his/the chess player’s world, though I suppose it’s not more than an interpretation. I think the reason I gave him the kind expression is that the picture is really harsh when you look at it like that. When I was playing with different expression, I tried the one he has on the picture but it’s like it tipped the balance: angry surroundings + angry man = meaningless picture. It would be fun to draw him as a kid or in his 92 match and as he is today, although I guess I’ll have to wait for google to bring a nice reference picture for that. 😀

I’m btw curious about the rest of White’s army myself. I’m sure it looks magnificent!


Carina January 18, 2008 at 4:46 am

Okay, I guess I won’t be sending him any picture anyways. Bobby Fischer died today, according to news. Damnit and RIP.


Carina January 18, 2008 at 5:19 am

According to more accurate news, he died Thursday, which is the day after I finished my picture. I’m now being accused all over the internet for having stolen his soul with it! *cries*


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