A Great Illustration of Wrongful Thinking

My friend FM Alex Betaneli just held the 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival.

I had offered to take a half day at work the day the tournament began so I could go help set up.  Alex also asked if I would like to be a house player if needed, which I agreed to do.

As it turned out there were an odd number of players, so I did get the chance to play a game.

I was paired with Merissa Wongso, rated 1489.  During this game I made two horrible decisions; one psychological, one strategic.

Here is the first position.  I am White.

I have decent knowledge of the 9.Ne1 KID.  I also have working knowledge of the 7…exd4 KID since I used to play it.  I don’t know much about the Grunfeld since no one seems to play that against me, but I at least know a little.

So what do I do?  Do I play 3.d4 and head right down the road to a nice mainline opening?  Nope, I bail out with 3.g3.  Now there’s nothing wrong with the move in and of itself, and had the move order been 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 you’d expect 3.Nc3 and this position arises anyways. But I don’t play 2.g3 for a variety of reasons and so easily could have avoided this.

The problem is that I sit there and convince myself that playing something that my opponent is less familiar with should work to my advantage.  That’s ridiculous.  I should play the more dynamic mainlines and not duck and cover.

So that’s the psychologically incorrect decision.

Here is the strategically incorrect one:

Here my opponent has just played 13…Nd4.  I instantly saw that the pawn on b7 hangs.  So after 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Bxb7 Rab8 17.Bg2 I’m up material.

However, compare the two positions.  In the second position two pairs of minors are off the board, all possibility for pressure on the king side is gone, and Black’s knight on d4 is strong.

Imagine instead I had played 14.Nd5 which forces 14…Bxe4 15.dxe4

In this position White is not up any material, but has a better position with more possibilities.

Here is the entire game.  My opponent played the rook ending extremely well.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

8 thoughts on “A Great Illustration of Wrongful Thinking”

  1. You are 300+ higher rated then your opponent. So why you gone mental (you call it psychology) in the opening fase I dont know. Play what you know, thrust that you can outcalculate your opponent, certainly with such a big rating difference.

    Heck, even if the opponent is higher rated then you, stick to your guns.

  2. Stop studying openings. Start with basic endgames. How you wound up on the downside of a draw is almost incomprehensible.

    1. As I have pointed out many times on this blog, I don’t study openings. I spend an hour a week at the most, and that’s only recently after a lifetime devoted to never studying them at all.

      Being held to a draw by a lower rated player is not “incomprehensible” – it’s part of chess. It happens. She played the ending quite well.

  3. Just out of curiosity, why do you play 2. Nc3 instead of 2. g3?

    My understanding is that 2. Nc3 is slightly more flexible in terms of transpositions, allowing for easy shifts into 1. d4 lines (especially those where white doesn’t fianchetto the light-squared bishop). I feel like you kind of already made this point in the post, but based on this reasoning it doesn’t really seem consistent to play 3. g3 there.

    I personally play 2. g3 and think the benefits outweigh any costs associated with it but this obviously comes down to personal preference I think.

    1. I do play 2.Nc3 to transposition into 1.d4 lines. I played d4 for a while but there are a handful of lines I don’t care for that I can avoid with 1.c4 in a lot of cases.

      In this case 3.g3 throws away all of that. The only real explanation is irrational fear. I had worked that day, then set up the entire tournament room. So when I sat down to play I was thinking ridiculous thoughts like “I haven’t played the KID in a long time, so she’ll be better prepared” and other drivel.

      It was a terrible decision, and one I don’t plan to repeat.

      I deserved being held to a draw for this.

  4. I think grabbing that pawn was correct. The burden is on black proving compensation and I am skeptical full compensation is there. You will play f4 soon and black is struggling to justify the piece placement. Whites pieces are on good squares.

    I am surprised you spent so long analyzing whether to play d4 or g3. Both are playable and lead to interesting positions. I do not find the move g3 to be a psychological error in the slightest. Maybe if you knew your opponents mainline Grunfeld or KID, playing g3 would be a mistake, but doing so anyway can be annoying to the opponent who was expecting that mainline.

    1. I actually didn’t spend more than 30-45 seconds on 3.g3. I just gave it some cursory thought and then played it. But I need to develop a much deeper understanding of my repertoire, and this is only going to happen if I start playing all mainlines all the time so I can get many games in these same positions.

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