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AIKIDO CHESS!

By Davide Nastasio

For kids Santa comes on Christmas. But for me Christmas happens nearly every Monday with the Deal of the Week!  Chessbase wants to get rid of some old stuff, and they mark it half price! So a DVD which costs $29 is sold for $12-13. What is old for one guy, is new for another, and for me sometimes there is material I didn’t have and I’d love to get right away.  Last week the deal of the week was Karsten Mueller’s Chess Endgames 8, of his infinite series (he made at least 14!!)

 

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and What Grandmasters Don’t SeeVolume 3, by GM Maurice Ashley.

 

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I got them right away because I never watched Ashley, and I heard he is a superb commentator.  Obviously the endgame DVD is needed if one wants to make real progress in chess, or at least this is the mantra every author and coach repeats over and over!  Practically for as little as $26, I’ve got a little more than 8 hours of training under two different GMs!!  Plus, I have a tournament in a couple of weeks, and these two DVDs will help my preparation.

Instead of making a review, since this stuff is old and probably nobody cares, I’d like to share some of the positions and games I loved from GM Ashley’s DVD so the reader of this article can benefit too!  Now let’s come to the title, which is based on GM Ashley’s lectures! Aikido is a martial art from Japan in which the strength and energy of the opponent are used to overcome him. GM Ashley shows in many lectures how some amazing tactics can happen on squares which are protected. Practically in the opponent’s territory, where he thinks he is safe — but he is not. The concept of Aikido Chess is better explained by Ashley in a video where he says, “Ignoring the threat of the opponent, letting him have what he wants, and continue like nothing happened, this is Aikido Chess!”

 

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Steven Seagal, circa 1975

 

I loved Ashley’s presentation style, quite warm.  He tells some interesting anecdotes and often shows what went wrong, and what the loser should have played.

 

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GM Maurice Ashley

 

Ashley mentioned that Linares 1994 is a tournament one should watch, especially Karpov’s games, because in that tournament he showed absolute domination.  Below is one game in particular he said one must watch.

 

 

Ashley correctly points out the domination Karpov showed in that tournament.  Karpov won the tournament with 11 out of 14, and Kasparov was second with 8.5 out of 14! But imagine big names like Ivanchuk with 6 points out of 14! Or Polgar with 4 points out of 14! Kramnik did well: 7 points, while Anand just had 6.5!

 

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Kasparov vs. Karpov, Linares 1994

 

 

This position was reached after Kasparov’s 13th move: cxd4. Karpov continued with 13. … a4, which wasn’t the winning move, or at least a move which would give Black some advantage. Now place the position on a chess board, and think for at least 10-15 minutes, and see if you can find a better move than 13. … a4.

I’m not giving the solution because Ashley explained well the ideas behind the correct move in his video, and surely he took hours to research the material and create the DVD.  In reality, though, his analysis on this position is not totally correct! (As a hint, the amazing move Karpov should have played is a move by the dark squares bishop taking a pawn!)  I found some improvements for White that Ashley didn’t think of. However, I do agree, Karpov could have played an amazing move, and he totally missed it!

Kasparov is involved in some of the most exciting chess games we can see in chess history.  Here is another position from one of his games presented in this DVD.

 

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Huebner vs. Kasparov, 1992

 

Huebner is White, and he just played 14.Bd3. The idea is simple: to give checkmate on H7.  Can you find the move Kasparov played, and the winning idea behind it?  Again, try to place the position on your chess board, and think 10-15 minutes.  Here is the game:

 

 

Ashley’s commentary on this game reflects an interesting psychological problem chess players have. We often feel bad for a loss in a tournament, but in reality nobody witnessed it.  Instead, the above game was played on TV, so likely a few million people witnessed GM Huebner’s painful loss!

I think many of the positions selected by Ashley are really good for teaching as a coach because they involve multiple elements: calculation, imagination, tactical knowledge. The following one is an example, which came from the very important tournament, Aeroflot 2006.  It wasn’t played between the top group, just by two relatively known GMs rated around 2500.

 

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White to move and checkmate in 16 moves!

 

Believe it or not this is a checkmate in 16 moves! My Stockfish 5 cannot find it in more than 1 minute. But Fritz15 finds it immediately in about 2 seconds. Showing that often the problem is not the computer, but the individual engine differences.  In any case, Black lost in less moves in the real game, but here comes the art of analysis.  Take out your board and write down all the moves and variants which lead to the checkmate.  That is a wonderful exercise.

Also this position:

 

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Black to move and win.

 

Finding the best move for Black is quite easy for anyone doing lots of tactics.  The problem is to justify the hunch, and prove it with precise calculation. And if we were in a real tournament game, what would we play as Black?

Let’s finish this DVD with what GM Ashley considers his best game ever.  Before examining the game, I’d like to use the following position as a training exercise.

 

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Shabalov vs. Ashley

 

Shabalov just played 20.Bc6, which is a mistake.   Now place the position on the board, think/calculate for 10-20 minutes, and see if you are able to justify the beautiful sacrifice 20. … Nxg3!!  Let me tell you: the sacrifice is correct, BUT before playing it GM Ashley had clear in his mind all the variations, lines, and possible tricks White could use. If you are able to do the same, that’s good for your chess; if not, it showed you the difference between a GM level player and an amateur at calculation level.

Here is the game for those who are just curious to know how it ended.

 

 

Honestly I enjoyed Ashley’s DVD quite a lot, yet I would have put more positions and games, because I definitely loved it.  If one adds the fact that I paid the same amount of money I’d pay for entrance to a museum, the enjoyment of these masterpieces is quite total.

 

 

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