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Thread: Advice for chess playing seniors

  1. #1
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    Default Advice for chess playing seniors

    What age is a senior defined to be for in competitive chess? I've seen it given as low as 50 years old. For this thread's purpose I have in mind 60+ (noting senior is often thought to be age 65+ in everyday usage). My own age is close to 60, and I've already lived longer than either Alekhine or Capablanca did, so somehow that may make my advice for senior chess players more relevant. Perhaps other members of this Forum have their own advice or opinions to give.

    I recall Botvinnik once wrote (in his old 100 Selected Games book) that one cannot hope for a good result in a tournament if one's health is poor at the time of it. For seniors with such an issue, perhaps they can set their sights on playing an enjoyable or great game at least once a tournament. There's many other joys to chess than just these, such as post-mortem debates, or chess message boards nowadays.

    It's tough all the same to be in excellent health as when younger, even for those in good shape otherwise. Ideally attention should be paid to physical conditioning and/or diet more than ever, and before and during a game it can matter significantly what one puts into one's body. In the 2013 Canadian Open in Ottawa, I played a very strong, though aging, GM, and I was a bit surprised when he brought to the board several snacks of nuts, chocolate bars and such, along with his juices of choice, though I guess it's understandable, and allowed (still, I might not ever have made such a considerable pile myself while at the board). These days, people of all ages seem to have all sorts of beverages that they bring to the board with them, at least. Each should consider his own bodily needs, at any rate.

    In the following game, I was never worse against a much younger opponent of master strength, but I had to absorb the slight psychological ups and downs of a position that was hard for me to be sure at many points that I was evaluating properly:


    [Event "RA Spring Frost"]
    [Site "Ottawa, CAN"]
    [Date "2018.3.15"]
    [Round "1"]
    [White "Demchenko, Svetlana"]
    [Black "Pacey, Kevin"]
    [Result "0-1"]

    1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 {Nowadays 2.Bf4 is often thought more accurate, if White wishes to play the London System.} Nf6 3.Bf4 {The London System is all the rage these days, perhaps because Magnus Carlsen plays it at times. I still don't get what makes it more special than your average sideline, other than it can be hard to beat.} c6 4.e3 Bg4 {ECO gives 4...Qb6 and Black soon gets equality after 5.Qc1. There's more than one way to skin a cat in this case, IMHO.} 5.c3 {Lots of other moves have been tried in this obscure line in my database.} Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e6 7.Bd3 Nh5 {7...Be7 looks common here, but I was already trying to mix things up.} 8.h3 {Here 8.Bg3 or 8.Bg5 have been tried. My opponent's move almost seems compliant, though it leads to more simplification than I quite liked.} Nxf4 9.exf4 Bxf3 10.Nxf3 Bd6 11.g3 {My engine prefers 11.Ne5, claiming White is equal.} Qb6 {The machine thought I'd have a slight edge if I simply castled, intending ...c5. Now The game's rated equal again.} 12.Qe2 g6 {I was hoping she'd unbalance things a bit with f4-f5 immediately here. I plainly could have castled, here or next move.} 13.O-O c5 14.dxc5 {Better was 14.Bb5. Now Black is slightly better.} Nxc5 15.Bb5+ {Forcing Black to castle by hand eventually, but now she's gone out on a bit of limb.} Kf8 16.Nd4 a6 17.Bd3 Nxd3 18.Qxd3 Kg7 19.Rae1 Rhe8 20.Re2 Be7 {Better was 20...Rac8. Now, reeling a bit from perceived pressure, real or imagined, and more relevantly also from the onset of some fatigue, I let White equalize, again. At this point I went for a beverage of choice [a bottle of Sprite] to get a little more energy.} 21.Rfe1 Bf6 22.Nf3 {Better was 22.g4 says the engine. Now I should have played ...Rad8 with a slight edge, but again ceded equality.} Rac8 23.g4 Kf8 {23...Qd6!? may have been a way to play for a win at all costs, but at this point it was hard for me to predict what would happen significantly deeper into the game continuation.} 24.f5 {The machine suggests the strange 24.g5.} exf5 25.gxf5 Rxe2 26.Rxe2 Rd8 27.Qd2 {My opponent has her eye fixed on my king's abode. Instead the engine suggests 27.fxg6.} d4 {Re-energized physically by now, I felt some urgency to act here!} 28.cxd4 Bxd4 29.Qh6+ {Now my opponent seems interested in mixing things up more, first by keeping the minor pieces on.} Bg7 30.Qxh7 Rd1+ 31.Kg2 Qb5 32.Re3 Qxf5 33.Qh4 Qc5 34.Qe4 Qc6 {Facing reality. Now White can go for a drawish endgame here or on the next two moves.} 35.Qe7+ Kg8 36.b3 Bf6 37.Qb4 {It was high time for playing Qe8+. Now Black gets a slight edge after my reply, or 37...Bd4} Kg7 38.Re4 b5 39.Re3 {Costing White material and the game. Better was 39.Re2.} Bd4 40.Qe7 Bxe3 41.Qe5+ Qf6 42.Qxe3 b4 43.Qe4 a5 44.Ne5 Qg5+ 45.Ng4 Qd5 46.Qxd5 Rxd5 47.Kf3 Rd2 48.Ke3 Rxa2 49.Kd3 f5 50.Ne5 Rxf2 51.Kc4 Rc2+ 52.Kb5 Rc3 53.Kxa5 {Allowing ...Rc5+, which during Black's slight time trouble he misses when having a senior's moment. Still, it's of no real importance.} Rxb3 0-1
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

  2. #2
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    Here's a link to ChessBase's ad for something by Nigel Davies, with advice for 35+ year old players (featuring playing low-maintenance openings and aiming for endgames):

    https://en.chessbase.com/post/gm-nig...es-for-35-only
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Pacey View Post
    Here's a link to ChessBase's ad for something by Nigel Davies, with advice for 35+ year old players (featuring playing low-maintenance openings and aiming for endgames):

    https://en.chessbase.com/post/gm-nig...es-for-35-only

    I picked that video up a number of years ago and remember watching it, and finding it useful. I'm sure that people can find it at the CMA's Strategy and Games stores and website.

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    Just looking at the ad itself, personally I would pick different low maintenance defences vs. 1.e4 than the two mentioned, which are the Accelerated Dragon and the Rubinstein French as Black; the former allows White to play the Maroczy Bind, which may give White a little more of an edge than I'd like, with good play, while the latter variation of the French, even if it doesn't give White a guaranteed edge, may leave Black struggling a bit for winning chances if White fails to over-press (even at lower skill levels, perhaps). However, the Bogo-Indian, mentioned in discussing a win by Taimanov, possibly deserves to be a frontline winning try defence in the Nimzo-complex as much as the Queen's Indian, IMHO - fortunately it is not so popular as the latter. Anyway, there's lots of relatively potent offbeat French Defence lines that could be preferred to the Rubinstein, IMHO (not to mention using the Caro-Kann or maybe Berlin Lopez - the theory is not very often critical to know to survive in either case, especially at lower skill levels, nor is it developing as fast as in many Sicilians). Instead of the Accelerated Dragon, if Black really wants all the juice that goes with playing a Sicilian then a Kan, Taimanov, Paulsen or perhaps Classical Sicilian could be looked at, if the defender chooses his lines at home carefully, before going back for years to the tournament hall (i.e. to be about as low-maintenance as possible).

    P.S.: Here's a link to a thread on this forum discussing some of the basic differences between the defining moves of the Kan, Taimanov and Paulsen Sicilians (a matter of confusion/controversy!?):

    http://www.chesscanada.info/forum/sh...cilian-Paulsen
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 06-16-2019 at 10:29 PM. Reason: Grammar
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vladimir Drkulec View Post
    I picked that video up a number of years ago and remember watching it, and finding it useful. I'm sure that people can find it at the CMA's Strategy and Games stores and website.
    I'm wondering how useful the video would be when both players are beneath international tournament competition level, such as average players (up to national master level) in a Canadian weekend Swiss (or chess club); maybe you can elaborate a bit on why you thought the video was useful to you.

    Another thing I'm wondering is if the video should be more appropriately addressed to (by the reviewer?!), e.g., age 55+ players (except that could limit potential sales). I think a 35 year old normally would have lots of energy still, but maybe typically would have rather limited free time to study - noting that all that may be true of typical 25+ year olds, too(!)

    In my own case I'm almost 60, as I wrote earlier. When playing, my usual opening choices are many, and both tactical or positional. I simply play positional openings more often against kids who are not clearly that weak, while sometimes using tactical openings against the ones who seem the opposite (at least by rating). Against everyone else, I assume most have limited time or will to study openings too, so I play what I please; I don't play in big events too often, so I'm even less likely to suffer by using the occasional 'bluff' when it comes to openings. If I was to take a more responsible approach to my opening play and study, I suppose I'd have to shed the tactical openings in my old age (if not immediately), but then I'd be wasting a lot of experience, and previous study (however little), with said openings.

    One other thing I'd note is that e.g. Timman and Korchnoi both kept playing tactical openings well into their senior years, and they were/are still a force, as Yermolinsky put it, so it appears some older GMs don't seem to worry about having less energy compared to youngsters (though as professionals they do have lots of time to study, at least).
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 06-16-2019 at 10:32 PM. Reason: Grammar
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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    With the Toronto Blue Jays now all but officially 'buried' this season (i.e. currently 10 games back of the last available playoff spot, as occupied by Texas), there's not much entertainment for me to look forward to this summer (e.g. the Ottawa Red Blacks only play once a week, in the CFL). So, I may head back to my local chess club for at least the summer, after all. Maybe only after I figure out what openings to favour.

    Aside from all that, it's remarkable how little activity there is in the way of chess-related (or any) discussion on this message board, for seemingly long periods of time.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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    Interestingly the Maroczy Bind is rated only 0.18 (i.e. in favour of White) by Chess Assistant 16 (though oddly it gives just 6.Nc2 the human evaluation symbol as +=). Compare that to the Yugoslav Dragon with 9.0-0-0 (rated 0.33, but just +=/= by a human, though oddly only in case of 9...Be6 [after 9.0-0-0]). The latter opening (Dragon) is definitely tactical, while I've seen the Accelerated Dragon described online (at least) as more positional than many Open Sicilians (perhaps mainly due to Maroczy Bind being commonly played by White). Other than in the Maroczy, I'm not sure how one frequently accumulates small advantages (i.e. in a positional-style) in an Accelerated Dragon as Black.

    The Rubinstein French with Black at move 3 has an overall Black winning percentage of just 20-21% (whether by 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2) in my CA16 database. That's about what the Queen's Gambit Declined, Classical Orthodox Variation scores for Black, though quite a few of its lines are rather less dull than those of the French Rubinstein generally are, IMHO. Maybe in one's old age, risking a draw with Black (even in short weekend Swiss') can more often be an option (especially if one has a winning try that's an alternative, when one must really go all-out).

    Right now I'm considering how to have an all-positional repertoire with at least two good-winning-try choices vs. everything (ideally even if played at elite level). The French plus Nimzo-Indian complex seems pretty great with Black. Unfortunately the Caro-Kann plus Slav doesn't quite cut it (in theory) in either case, in must-win scenarios where White wants to draw (the Slav especially, e.g. the Exchange line). Same for 1.e4 e5 in case of the Ruy Lopez (it's sad what's happened to the Arkhangelsk, while the Open Lopez has its share of dull lines, and rarely wins at elite level anymore it seems - maybe a last hope at that level is the Keres or Breyer, even when White wants a draw?!), while vs. 1.d4 the [Neo-]Grunfeld really should be described as tactical as a generalization.

    However, a Stonewall Dutch is relatively positional [edit: the Benko Gambit is at least partly positional, but I think it can too easily become quite tactical], and many Sicilians might be not-so-tactical, or certainly more solid than Open Sicilians that are clearly mainly tactical like the Dragon, i.e. those I listed earlier in this thread (maybe I could throw in Accelerated Dragon too, now?!); all of that seems to offer Black fairly nice winning chances. In case playing a Stonewall vs. other first moves than 1.d4 is not so attractive, Black can at least play Symmetrical English lines. With White, I'd say it's best not to play 1.e4 if you want positional, low-maintenance openings (anti-Sicilians, non-mainline Lopez', etc. are somewhat lame for my taste, if I was to be conscientious, e.g. with my eye on elite play). What bugs me a bit is that young tacticians seem to have so many nice options to choose from in case they want to win at all costs with Black (in case of White, 1.e4 normally seems to be their key first move choice, though); besides possibly any major Open Sicilian, there's also the Pirc or maybe (especially depending on one's view of the KID) 1..g6 to use against 1.e4 if Black wants to play in that style even at elite level, and still be playing pretty respectable defences.
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 07-02-2019 at 07:59 PM. Reason: Adding content
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Pacey View Post
    Interestingly the Maroczy Bind is rated only 0.18 (i.e. in favour of White) by Chess Assistant 16 (though oddly it gives just 6.Nc2 the human evaluation symbol as +=). Compare that to the Yugoslav Dragon with 9.0-0-0 (rated 0.33, but just +=/= by a human, though oddly only in case of 9...Be6 [after 9.0-0-0]). The latter opening (Dragon) is definitely tactical, while I've seen the Accelerated Dragon described online (at least) as more positional than many Open Sicilians (perhaps mainly due to Maroczy Bind being commonly played by White). Other than in the Maroczy, I'm not sure how one frequently accumulates small advantages (i.e. in a positional-style) in an Accelerated Dragon as Black.
    Fwiw, here's the wiki re: Accelerated Dragon that describes it as generally more positional than many Open Sicilians:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicili...lerated_Dragon

    Also fwiw, MCO-15 rates the Maroczy Bind lines as leading to a quieter, positional type of game compared to the alternative lines with Nc3 and Bc4 instead of c2-c4 (that are also independent of the Dragon), which are generally complicated and tactical.

    One thing I find potentially appealing about this defence is that it can be reached via 2...g6 (besides 2...Nc6), although a bit of extra work is needed for purely Hyper-Accelerated lines (the most arguably tactical of which can be avoided by Black early on, e.g. if 3.d4 play 3...exd4 rather than 3...Bg7 allowing 4.dxc5, while 3.c4 can lead to a Maroczy Bind). One little point is that c3-Sicilian players sometimes play 2.Nf3 to see if Black will play 2...Nc6 (or 2...e6) before White then plays 3.c3, when Black has lost some options vs. the c3-Sicilian (compared to if 2.c3 at once), which makes having a 2...d6 Open Sicilian nice to have. Unfortunately I'm thinking the Classical Sicilian may be at the least always heavy on the need-to-know theory, and I currently play the Dragon, which really should go if one insists on not playing rather 'fishy' minor lines of that defence, which are necessary to try to play a low-maintenance repertoire with it. Luckily 2...g6 also 'solves' the c3-Sicilian-player 'issue' (2...Nf6, by contrast, isn't all that recommendable, especially at higher levels, for example). Note if 2.c3 g6 White can delay and/or omit playing Nf3 by (profitably) playing 3.d4, according to established opening theory (e.g. see ECO, 4th edition). Besides all that, note also that a couple of other anti-Sicilians (the Rossolimo [2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5] and 3.b3) can be avoided/discouraged after 2.Nf3 by 2...g6.
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 07-02-2019 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Adding content
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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    My latest thoughts on getting an [extra] low maintenance Open Sicilian as Black, with the use of 2...g6 (or 2...d6)... the Maroczy Bind keeps grossing me out, at least if I wish to play for a win at all costs with Black using the Accelerated Dragon without (in theory) risking ending up at a significant disadvantage [edit2: at least in terms of common elite player human evaluations, as opposed to the interesting numerical evaluations provided by CA16's engine]. However, Bent Larsen's invention 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nbd7!? seems pretty cool to me so far, in looking with CA16. Black does need to be willing to play some Scheveningen- and Dragondorf-like positions. Experts vs. the Sicilian (2004) treat 6.g4 as the way to play for an edge with White, for example, but 6...h6 (best) doesn't seem so bad. I draw the line at using Kupreichik's 5...Bd7!? though, e.g. 6.Bc4 might lead to possibly pleasant Sozin-like positions for White, or 6.f3 just might eventually lead to any mainline of the Yugoslav Dragon, in case of ...g6 by Black.

    [edit: A potential drawback of 5...Nbd7!?, as far as having a low maintenance opening is concerned, is that after 6.Be3 a6 (best) 7.f3 e6 8.Qd2 b5, a major (though okay for Black) line of the Scheveningen, English Attack variation is reached. However, CA16 considers 7...Qc7 as not too poor a way to deviate for Black, fwiw.]
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 07-02-2019 at 07:54 PM. Reason: Adding content
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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