Do not count Ding out of the race just yet.

I was very impressed by the way Ding won in the 9:th round of the Candidates, and then he followed it up with a win in the 10:th. Considering his attitude in the game below, I believe he has a chance to overtake the leader. (I have heard that predictions should be kept vague, so I’ll stick with “has a chance”, for now.)

Andersson – Portisch will have to wait another week.

Dutch Open, Nijmegen

No, you are not wrong in that you have not seen the results from this tournament reported on at the big chess sites; it was a go tournament that took place over the last weekend in May. My home club from Malmö was represented by myself and Jörgen, and I challenge you to find two more enthusiastic go players. We started playing against each other on the airport, continued on the plane, and started a second game by the time we were on the train from Schiphol to Nijmegen.

Nijmegen turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Since it had been almost impossible to find a hotel room for the length of the tournament, I expected the town to be quite small, and with this expectation in place I did not register neither the distance between the town center and the playing hall (which was about half an hour on foot), nor the size of the wikipedia article. And as we got there and found ourselves in a city of nearly 180000 inhabitants, the mystery only deepened. A google search on “why does no one visit Nijmegen”, comes up with this and some numbers that indicates a 1/115 hotel rooms/citizen ratio. The latter number is very low indeed, about a third of that of a town like Nürnberg (my calculations), and almost half that of my home town, Malmö. And, it is quite strange, because…

Nijmegen is a strange and quite lovely town.

The strange pillars on the water front shows the water level during the floods in the 1995. …and I am a terrible photographer, which the next picure is proof of.

The Waal is wide and wild, and not a place one would like to fall into. The City center was terribly affected by German bombings at the end of WW2, but some old buildings have been restored. Some towns are just like many other towns you have seen, but Nijmegen has a character of its own.

The go tournament took place in a community center at the end of a innocent looking street:

The tournament was run smoothly by the organizers. There was a bar on the ground floor, and when the players were finished with their games, it was possible to get help with the review from Mateusz Surma. On the first evening there was a common dinner and on the other evenings some of us went to a bar to go through the games of the day.

If I get the chance to come back in the future, I will definitely do it.

I got off to great start, with 4/4, and cannot complain about losing the two last games to stronger opponents. I did have decent chances to win the last game, but considering my luck in the second round, I should not complain. (The fun starts close to the end, around move 110.)

The organizers sent two links with pictures:   (Thanks to Rudi)  (Thanks to Harry)

If you were reading this, it is probably because you know of me as a chess player or a coach. Just like most high rated coaches in the chess world, I started coaching well before I had any real idea of what coaching meant. My strength as a chess player recommended me well enough that no one asked me further what my qualifications as a coach were. To some extent it remains thus today, and it has been up to myself to question whether what I have taught and done was productive. In short: I have done a lot of things wrong in my time and although I still have no formal education in the pedagogical department, I constantly try to improve and learn. Perhaps learning to play a second advanced game (go) at an advanced age, has been the best I have done relative to being a coach. One advantage is that I have lived through going from beginner to master level at something equally (or more) hard, a second time, and that this process has reminded me of how tricky it was to become a strong chess player. But, more importantly, I have been able to practice what I have preached.

I believe that, at the core of becoming strong at something like chess or go (and I could make that short list quite a bit longer), is the ability to critically review what you are doing; to become accustomed to, or even embrace, the concept of “mistake”. There are those who would disagree with me, who even try to find ways to teach and learn without ever using that concept, but I believe the way forward is not to avoid words and concepts, but rather to look at the context in which we use them. In this case, I believe it is very important not to over-dramatize the concept of “mistake”. We make mistakes, and if we make a habit of correcting them, without feeling too bad about them, that will improve anyone’s life. It is a fact that there are areas in life where I fail to comply with this ambition, but I am not giving it up.

There are studies backed up by statistical research that contradict my attitude towards mistakes, and I do not doubt that if you take a group of people, separate them into two groups and leave one group with a teacher who (among other things) helps them to learn from their mistakes, whereas the other get a teacher that use more advanced pedagogic methods that avoid these terms, the second group will do better, in general. However, I also think that the few who have mastered to deal with their mistakes, who view them less dramatically, and who are able to shed mistaken opinions more easily, will do better in the first group. These people are generally speaking minority, which is why other methods get a better score. And I say this from a quite non-scientific perspective; backed up merely by my experience.

Posted in go

De gustibus et non disputandum est

I spend about half an hour every day on Youtube. I watch piano tutorials, go instruction, table tennis, snooker, cooking and follow a few science channels. On occasion it is suggested that I watch a chess video, and sometimes I comply. As with those other areas that I follow, I am generally impressed with the quality of some of the stuff you can find out there. I have always been a fan of Simon Williams’ channel “Ginger GM”), since his love for the game resonates with mine, and Matthew Sadler’s “Silicon Road” sometimes make me question my (otherwise) rather negative idea of how deep you can go with a visual medium. I also try to keep track of what is out there; serious coaches, studio clips from big tournaments, uploaded streams and studio clips from big events. Lately I have gotten more and more suggestions from e-sport events that involve chess, and in more than one of these I have seen strong chess players get questions like: “Do you guys think online chess is an e-sport?”, and further, “does it qualify for being an e-sport”. And the strong player usually makes some excellent advertisement for chess in general and then rounds it off with a resounding “yes!”. Personally, I think asking these questions is a bit like asking the chef of a Michelin-recommended restaurant who has just produced a hamburger: “do you think you qualify as a fast food restaurant now?”. or asking an opera singer who just sang a piece of modern pop music “are you a pop star now?” I like both pop music and fast food (if it is done well), and e-sport is an amazingly rich environment, but if I was asked something like this, I would have to bite my tongue not to say, “Do we want it to be?” I believe chess, shogi, go and the likes of them, belong to a different category of games, for many reasons, but the main one being that one can become obsessed with them and stay obsessed for a lifetime. They are each a proper World of mind-boggling complexity and knowing one of them well is like carrying around a planet that circles your head, always; a place to where you can withdraw at any given time. These games are commitments that last, and in order to get better at them you must analyze your mistakes and learn from them, again, and again, and again… If you do not like commitment, then I recommend you to stay away from chess, and go. And when it comes to dexterity, I would rather watch someone playing the piano, with the sound turned off, than watching someone play a video game. Well, each one to his own poison.

Considering the next game, and many others, it stands to reason that no one has analyzed his mistakes better than Magnus Carlsen:

Next Friday I’ll share Andersson – Portisch, Manila 1974 with you. It was one of the first games I ever played through, and possibly the first where I encountered this style of playing.