Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Pied Chessman vs. Tigran Petrosian

Want to play against the best players in the world? I do all the time! Well, sort of ....

By playing Solitaire Chess, you can match your wits against the best in the world by guessing the moves of the greatest games. The idea was probably begun by I. A. Horowitz when he started a column in Chess Review called Play the Masters in January 1942. The column would later become known as Solitaire Chess.

More after the fold:

The games were chosen for their instructive value. The idea was to play the move of the loser of the game, then try to guess the move made by the winner of the game. You got points for guessing the right move. The column was a long-running success.

With the original column having ended in the 1960's, Bruce Pandolfini revived the idea in the 1990's with his own column of Solitiare Chess. Bruce still writes the column for USCF's Chess Life and offers analysis of the moves as well as bonus points for things such as correctly assessing the threats of a position.

Both Horowitz and Pandolfini published books with the same idea and titled Solitaire Chess. Horowitz' effort contained mostly new games not seen in his columns, whereas Pandolfini's offering is a 'Best of' collection. Other books with the same idea are How Good Is Your Chess? by Daniel King and the prophetically titled How Good Is Your Chess? by Leonard Barden.

This technique has been recommended by chess coaches as a good way to improve your game. Taking the idea seriously, it's makes you think just as you do in an over-the-board game. And of course, it's a great way to simply review the classical games at the same time. Checking around, you'll find variations on the idea, such as offering a multiple choice list of moves to choose from, and offering scoring for alternative moves.

But magazines and books aren't your only choices. Knowing that you can try guessing the moves of any chess score you find, you'll realize that you can also replay games with a chess program and guess the moves as you go along. With Chessbase or Fritz you can use the Training tab to hide the score as you play. Of course, selecting good games is crucial and not having scoring may make it harder to make yourself take the exercise as seriously as you should.

The solution is a feature called Guess the Move at Here they've analyzed classical games with a chess engine and generated scoring for most of your likely guesses. So you can replay nearly 7,000 great games this way! You'll even get a point deduction if you miss a tactical shot! I highly recommend this tool. It's great fun and certainly great training! You can choose a game to play randomly, or use a search engine to find your favorite player or opening system. I've started collections of games at the site compiled from the Horowitz and Pandolfini selections that you can use for playing Guess the Move. Membership at the site is an inexpensive $29 (plenty worth it) and you can play a demo of Guess the Move to try it out.

But I did title this post 'The Pied Chessman vs. Tigran Petrosian', right? Well, I played Guess the Move using the game Boleslavsky v. Petrosian, Moscow training 1966. Boleslavsky won and so did I with a score of 94 compared to a par score of 87.

So, choose your weapon: magazines, books, computer programs, or internet websites and give it a try!

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