Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

2013 Win for Tim!

Move 7 - you sideline your knight and I sideline my queen! I regretted putting my queen there and only ended up having to move it. A huge part of the game is putting pieces into spots that make them powerful rather than marginilised.

Move 10 - both sides developed and with positions that look good to me. So now the dilemma - what to do!!! Every piece that moves loses control over certain squares to get control over new ones. 

Move 13 - I hatch my plan to punch through to your King via a bishop sacrifice and threaten checkmate with knight on F5 and + queen on G7. I can see that your bishop on F4 will be a problem!!  

Move 17 - I know your bishop will be a big problem because it will be able to take out my knight on F5 at the last minute, so I try to push it out with the pawn. I didn't see your move 17 at all, woops! Moral of the story to me: whenever I move a piece a lose control of squares as well as gain new control.

Move 18 - I was very keen to swap bishops - your rejection of my offer was very smart. Your bishop is worth much more than mine!

Move 19 - I knew this was possible and allowed it to happen, because I wanted to force a bishop exchange so I could carry out my knight to F5 plan. I'm thinking "who cares how much materiel I lose if it helps me win"

Move 21 - I had seen this position and mentally noted to avoid it, then forgot!!! I very almost resigned, but went on in case you didn't see it, and you didn't, phew!

Move 26 - you broke my heart Timothy Bower! So now I come up with the rook + queen checkmate. The problem with all my sacrificing is that my plans were blockable providing you saw them. I shouldn't sacrifice unless it leads to a guaranteed win or some forced success. But in this case I was really gambling that you wouldn't see the threats, and you did.

Move 29 - I almost resigned here. My remaining knight was now my only chance.

Move 31 - really smart move by you rather than taking with the pawn.

Moves 36 onward - remember you can simply trade down the pieces at this point... it's not heroic but it gets the job done. Put your rook on Row 1 and force and exchange with my rook - e.g. move 41 check me on Row 1  then take the rook. Or Move 43 for that matter. i.e. just neutralise all my threats by exchanging and then you'll still be way ahead with materiel.

Move 47 you get there by a more expensive route anyway.

Move 48 all is utterly lost for me!

Overall: you at your best Tim! No foolish moves, well connected pieces, a good defensive eye, and a reluctance to exchange unless it benefited you. You really never faltered - there were no straight blunders or anything. My big blunder was to sacrifice materiel for a plot that could be countered by a good response from you... I put all my chickens in one cage but you came and mauled them, fox that you are! You steadily outplayed me from start to finish!

2013 Game Two

First few moves - the first few moves can go awfully wrong very suddenly, and there's not much you can do to avoid it except think things through and learn the classic traps and pitfalls through experience. I still get destroyed in the opening quite a lot when I play online.

Move 6 - Not the end of the world, just a little sneaky trick the works out well for me. 

Move 7 - Probably ok to use your queen, but then the next move has to be to retreat your queen, or at least be ready to retreat your queen at the smell of danger.

Move 8 - Queen to D4, really tempting to start strong arming around with your queen but it is bad practise and very likely to be used against you. I can chase your queen around with my minor pieces, developing my side of the board while you are paralysed into endless retreats.

Move 11 - knight sacrifice. I didn't know for sure what I would do from this sacrifice, but I knew it would stop you from castling and expose your King, and I knew I had my bishop and queen ready to join the attack because of the clear diagonals from D1 and D2.

Move 13 - I didn't want to lose momentum but sensed if I didn't consolidate my position I couldn't do much. At this point my position is very strong. At least 5 of my pieces are strongly activated. 3 of yours are - bishop, queen, rook, but your king is exposed and this proves fatal

Overall: it's the same basic principles of patience in developing really well connected pieces, and not exposing your queen early (or your King). All your stronger pieces can be used against you by the oppositions weaker pieces. E.g. a pawn attacking a knight, or a rook attacking a queen... the fact that they are valuable can be used against you. So you need to protect your stronger pieces from the opponent's weaker ones. This is a constant point of tension in the game. 

Try to think of all your pieces as being part of one big body. When you put a pawn forward, it's part of the body moving forward. Keep all parts of the body ultra connected with all the other parts - with lines of communication, cover, or retreat available. Tactically there can be exceptions to this, but I mean as a general principle keep really well connected.

2013 New Year Game

After a break from playing, here's our first game for 2013!

Move 13 - the moves leading up to move 13 leave me feeling claustrophobic about my position, and especially my knight seems de-activated and sidelined, and I'm stuck with awkward double pawns. In comparison your position looks really good and full of space and possibility. However your E2 bishop and your queen are disconnected from other pieces. You still tend to do this a little bit and your playing would be stronger if you kept your pieces better connected.

Move 19 great move to put the rook on the open file, especially opposite my queen. Forgetting about your knight is a blunder, and I think we're both at a similar level of play so that whichever of us can avoid blundering is likely to win. It's helpful to think "I will win by not blundering!" rather than "I will win with a genius strategy!" Putting all your attention on not blundering is a legitimate way of winning! I was very much just trying not to blunder for much of this game.

Move 25 yikes, I don't like the look of that - your rook is disconnected and has limited moves or retreat options available. Probably not worth the pawn. That the pawn was available was my blunder!

Move 29 my blunder! Well spotted!

Move 30 I pick up your bishop that I noted was undefended back at move 13. I am a piece up now.

Move 32 your bishop and rook are very awkward. The bishop blocks your rook from moving, and is dependent on your rook for support, but your rook has no support from any other piece. Your other rook is disconnected.

Move 37 by the time you've repaired your position, I've activated enough of my pieces to finish the game.

Overall game:

The game looks very even to me. My position started poor and improved, yours started strong and weakened. We both blundered more than once. I ended up with more material and a stronger position. Really great play from you - the only tip I have is to obsess over keeping your pieces hyper-connected.

Third Game

Move 8 - great move with your knight. My blunder to have the pawn undefended. Your knight is moving to a space where he can't be attacked by any of my pawns in the foreseeable future.

Move 9 - even better, your knight now supported by a pawn. 

Rachel's uncle told me "ask your pieces where they want to be". They want to be somewhere they can't be easily threatened, and where they won't have to retreat. Great spot for your knight - slam in the middle, threatening my territory.

Move 14 - 15 my blunder! I moved my knight to pick up a pawn, but then didn't pick up that your knight was unpinned after you castled. I lose a whole knight! Disaster!

What distracted me was a 'remove the defender' tactic - I saw if I could take out your other knight I could have your bishop for free.

Move 16 - you save your bishop but let me have your knight for free. We've both blundered... and now even!!

Move 19 - there is a really important principle at play here... I want to set it up so the very act of attacking me, puts me in an even stronger position. This is heaps important and one of the reasons why I still have the edge on you. I end up stronger out of this exchange because you've diverted moves into attacking me, and I get a free ride for my rook up to your vulnerable second row, which is always a lovely place for a rook to go since your pawn formations tend to start there.

Most of the time, even if an exchange is for equal materiel on both sides, it leaves one side stronger. e.g. I sacrifice a marginalised piece to take out your powerful piece. In an ideal world, you set it up so that if the other guy attacks you, it only makes your position stronger and his weaker.

Move 19 - your bishop should have moved to D7, which would have protected your pawn and created a real headache for my rook!

Move 24 - remember if you want to pawn rush you have to support your pawns thoroughly. By pushing that single pawn I was able to build myself a cubby hole to hide away in. I would have moved your G and H pawns up instead.

Notice how patient I have to be in pushing my pawns forward. At every step I have to be super careful that they have enough support. It takes ages and ages, and I have to pause to respond to your attacks on the other side of the board where necessary.

And that's about it. Good game, blunders on both sides, but in an endgame a 2-pawn advantage can be enough to force a win.

In some ways winning is mostly about not blundering. i.e. if you put all your effort into not blundering, rather than attacking, then if the other guy blunders you're suddenly ahead! 

I thought this was a really great game! More than any other game, could have gone either way - a really even position until the endgame, and even that was close.

Second Game

So here is the game, comments below.

Various comments:

- move 6

knights are in very strong, but conservative position. The closer the knights can be to the centre the more power they potentially have. Nothing wrong with this set up at all.

Bishop on C4 is perfectly placed - look how it has free run of the board, with very little potential for being threatened by black.

In contrast the bishop on C2 is locked down and deactivated, with no hope in immediate sight because of the knight formation and pawn formations blocking movement. This turns out to be a fatal flaw.

- move 12

the sequence moving up to move 12 was really well played. It leaves me down two pawns and thankful for coming out that lightly.

at this point my pieces are dangerously undeveloped, and I have a gigantic hole blasted on one side of the board, and a pesky pawn with power over D2 and B2. However your pieces aren't much better - and your bishop and rook are still stuck.

- move 15

this is a key moment in the game. I think on your side I would have decided to push forward my pawns - which I think was your intention. But if you want to go pawn storming you need to support the pawns to the hilt. i.e. swing your pieces behind your pawns. 

- move 17

wise to move your queen back. I think you needed to activate your other pieces before moving your pawns up. Putting your bishop on B2 would have been a very powerful move, joining your two rooks together too.

from here you let me take the initiative, sidetracking the game to my advantage. By reacting to my attack you let me get space to maneuver and break out 

- move 22

I am still a little worried about your pawn but am now feeling able to focus on attack. I have two bishops and a queen directly lined up against your King with only pawns to protect.

Moving your knight down is a weak move, in comparison to moving your bishop and connecting your rooks, or moving your rook out away from your king, or advancing a pawn away from your king to prevent checkmate on row 1.

Correct thinking in this situation is to increase more and more pressure until something breaks. So that's what I'm trying to do.

- move 25

total blunder by me... not looking properly!

You still haven't moved your bishop! This is the point where I realise I can go for a back-row checkmate.

- move 26

I had been hoping to make this move for a while, ever since your queen moved there.


General Comments:

Your playing was really topnotch.

Your weakness is a lack of piece development. Don't hatch crazy plans and swing into immediate action. Instead, build steady, robust pressure. The pawn storm could have really damaged me if you had patiently build support behind it. I'm watching you send pieces in for cowboy attacks. Stay more connected.

Try not to think in terms of 'having a plan'. Instead look to have lots of different plans, and while you're watching and waiting use every move to strengthen your position and debalance mine.

It's also very normal to have NO PLAN at all! The trick in this situation is not to panic. Make a move that doesn't weaken your position, and hopefully strengthens it a little. Don't strike out randomly because you feel you should have a plan but don't.

Scan your overall position and look for pieces that could be activated further. Pieces have their potential amplified or constrained by their position on their board, ability to move, line of sight, etc.

So it's fine to have NO PLAN and fine to have lots of plans! The one situation that shouldn't happen is to have just one plan! Half the art of chess is to not fuse yourself to a plan, because everything is agility and contingency.

It is always worth working systematically through the other guy's available moves. This sort of menial calculation makes every chess player a prophet!

Scan both your side and my side for structural weaknesses... especially at the base of pawn formations, but also any piece that isn't quite as connected as the others. then build a strategy around exploiting that weakness.

Similarly look for your own structural weaknesses and strengthen them.

Look for a good move, then find a better one!

Every defensive move you make should ideally also contain a threat that the other guy now has to respond to.

Try to be the initiator and force the other guy into reacting. If he is always reacting then he'll slowly compromise his position because he is limited by YOUR AGENDA! Try to force me to react to you. I am trying to force you to react to me.

When you're ready, learn the classic tactical moves:

Always look out for clever tactical moves.

The classic ones are: forks, pins, double attacks, discovered attacks, and removing the guard. Look out for these. I keep using them against you but you haven't been using them against me so I don't think they're much on your mind. Check out the excellent animations and explanations here (Wikipedia) and also here (numbers, 2, 3, 4, 5).