Chess training with Chessmaster XI (CM) is a great way to improve your play. After beating the Turk personality 8.5 – 1.5, I wanted to crank up the difficulty level to make things more challenging. Luke is similar in strength to Rusty but with an interesting twist – he favors bishops over rooks. For those of you unfamiliar with computer chess, that means the computer will overly protect its own bishops and go out of the way to attack my bishops.
Despite its stronger playing level, this was one of the most dominant games I have ever had against CM. Luke was slow to develop and “sacrificed” a pawn early in the opening. I put that word in quotes because he hung a central pawn with no compensation. Still, playing computer is always tough. Moves that we might categorize as blunders are often part of a deep rooted plan to swing the initiative in the computer’s favor. This wasn’t the case here though.
Chess training with CM 11 Luke (2045 elo)
Analyze pawn captures deeply. Computers are not afraid to sacrifice pawns for activity – this can mean opening a closed diagonal or vacating a key square for a knight. Pawns are the souls of chess – they set the foundation for which the game is played on. Any disruption to that foundation can cause irreparable damage to your position. I took ten minutes to make sure there was no counterplay after Nxe5. Only then did I make the capture.
Plan your attack. Jeremy Silman’s great book, “How to Reassess Your Chess” talks about chess training and picking which side of the board to attack on: the queenside, the center or the kingside. In this game, it was clear that my strategy was a queenside expansion which ultimately led to a convincing victory. Notice that none of my kingside pawns moved. That is fine. Many amateur players have a tendency to expand their pawns on multiple wings. This leaves them vulnerable to pawn breaks and sometimes piece sacrifices. Analyze where on the board you have an advantage and try making progress from there.
Occupy, invade, then trade. When amateur players lack a plan, they simply capture a piece. Making random captures can lead to a position imbalance that favors your opponent. I refused the opportunity to trade queens on move 28 and I am glad I did. Luke was already down material and offered a queen trade in the hope that this would let up the pressure – which it might have. Resist trading pieces unless there is a clear advantage to do so. This is why chess training is so important. Trading pieces too early takes soldiers off the battlefield and increases the likelihood of a draw.
Maneuver your pieces onto good squares to occupy enemy territory. Once you control your opponent’s squares you have an advantage and the invasion can begin. It’s just like real life warfare – one side masses troops on the border and makes a decision to invade. Chess is the same. Once your pieces are well placed, the invasion can begin and piece trades are part of that process. Chess training games can help you develop skills in these areas.
Game one was a blowout but it was fun and somewhat instructive. When someone gives you free pawns , take them – even when your opponent is a computer! Luke had very little counterplay in this game. His pieces were undeveloped and misplaced, which is often a sign that a counterattack is unlikely. Even so, always think carefully when changing the pawn structure of a position – it can have long term consequences that can be exploited all the way to the endgame. Chess training with CM continues with game two in a future post.
Have you ever done chess training with a computer? What were your results?