Losing the Thread – We’ve All Been There

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Imagine you are White in the above game. You’re up a piece for a pawn. You just need to convert this won game and you’ll add a full point to your score. What could be better?

So why not just play 52.Bc2 and threaten to win a pawn to go up a full piece? Yep, that’s what you do. You see your opponent’s eyes light up. Oh no, what have you missed?

Your opponent plays 52…h4, and now after 53.Bxe4 hxg3 54.fxg3 Kg4 you realize your mistake.

If White saves the bishop, Black will win White’s last pawn, and the game is a theoretical draw of R+B vs R.

I honestly don’t know why White didn’t go into that and at least try for the win.

Here is the complete game, which is wonderfully rich and complex.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Which Recapture?

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Here’s an interesting position. White has just played 21.Rxd8

Take a minute and ask yourself which way you would recapture as Black. 21…Rxd8, or 21…Kxd8 and why.

To me, the instant answer was 21…Rxd8. I didn’t even give it any thought.  Somewhere in the back of my mind some trope about taking the open d file was probably rumbling around.

Yet in the game, Mitrabha recaptured with the King, playing 21…Kxd8. After a moment’s thought I realized that this makes perfect sense since White has a queenside pawn majority and so Black would want his king on that side of the board.

Out of curiosity I checked with the engine. 21…Kxd8 is equal. 21…Rxd8 is +1.2 for White.

There should be no “automatic” recaptures without thinking.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Excellent Conversion at the U18 World Youth

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

I’ve been trying to do a better job of following more live events and recent games. I’ve not always done a great job with the total immersion concept, but I’m making a push to be better at it now. I need to see more games in a setting that forces me to draw my own conclusions about them rather than just read someone’s publish analysis.

One thing I’ve started to do is to play through every game in TWIC between two players of at least 2400 strength in the Caro-Kann and the Slav since those are openings that I play.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is following more live events. So a bit ago I opened up Follow Chess and I clicked on the U18 Open section of the World Youth and I saw this position.

Many times we are taught that opposite-colored bishops are usually a draw. Yet immediately this struck me as a position where White could easily convert. White did so, putting on a nice demonstration of technique. Yes, there was nothing overly difficult about this, yet it still serves as a nice example of a technical conversion.

Here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Publishers and Diagrams

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

One thing that I really wish chess book publishers would take into account more is the placement of diagrams.

One of the harder things for me to learn when I came back to chess in 2011 after an absence of almost 20 years was how to hold a position in my head so that I could reset it after playing through a line of analysis. I suspect that I am not alone in this.

Yes, I’ve read the musings of those who say they play through games with two boards, making the move on both boards, then using one to keep the position while they play through the analysis on the other board. I personally don’t find that to be an appealing thought at all.

I was drawn to the idea, both then and now, that learning to hold positions in my head would ultimately make me a stronger player. I believe this to be as true today as I did a decade ago when I was struggling to do this at all. If it’s relevant to anyone, my rating then was about 1600, whereas today I’m generally in the high 1700’s with a peak of 1896. Not exactly a strong player, but certainly not weak.

With that said, publisher’s do include diagrams for a reason. For some, it’s clear that they are trying to give readers a visual anchor in order to read through the book without needing a board. I am nowhere near that level, though I do often try to play through the analysis in my head without moving the pieces and have found that this has helped me visualize better. At first, I could hold the position well enough, but didn’t understand things like “why …Qd6 there” until I’d eventually realize that a pawn was unprotected on g3 or something like that.

That takes me to today’s quibble. Books which don’t have diagrams in places they clearly should.

Let’s take a look at this page from Enqvist’s 300 Most Important Chess Positions

We are given a diagram before Black’s 19th move, which is followed by a good explanation of why that move was played, but we are not given a diagram either after Black’s 20th move, where it would be much more useful. As you can see, the analysis runs to the next page and contains parentheses and brackets.

I’d really like to know the reasoning behind the placement of diagrams. This one makes no sense to me.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Targets: Taimanov – Bronstein 1953

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

In reading Enqvist’s book 300 Most Important Chess Positions I came across this one from Zurich 53.

I want you to stop for a moment and take a look at the position. It’s Black to move, and you are Black, so what would you play?

If you are like me, you are tempted by 18…Rxa2, which wins back your pawn. Ah…the security-blanket-feeling of material equality! If you are like Bronstein, you realize that after 19.Rxa2 Rxa2 20.e5 Black will have no targets on the queenside, while White’s attacking chances in the center are very real.

On the other hand, if you are like Bronstein, you realize that after 18…Bxc3 19.bxc3 you have some tasty targets with the a and c pawns.

Here is the game. Go find your inner Bronstein!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

USA Olympiad Woes and Dreams

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Heading into the current Chess Olympiad in Chennai, the USA team in the Open Section were massive rating favorites. Today, with their 1-3 loss against India 2 they are all but eliminated from medal contention at all.

We can all speculate about the reasons for this severe underperformance all we like, but ultimately it boils down to poor form at the wrong time, along with some opponents who have shown quite good form. This is chess, it happens.

We can also engage in the quite enjoyable activity of Monday morning quarterbacking and speculate how a team composed of youngsters such as Xiong, Sevian, Niemann, etc. would have done. In fact, I kind of played that game earlier today with an elite GM. I also played it with another friend. It’s fun!

Let’s be honest though, all of those thoughts are fueled by hindsight. It’s easy to say that things should have been done differently once they have gone somewhat wrong. Yet had we sent a team that was not the best one we could field in terms of rating, then fans would be screaming bloody murder. So the speculation has to remain as a “what if” – or does it?

Imagine a world in which the USA bids for, and receives, an Olympiad. We can then field two teams. In fact, if there is an odd number of teams, we can even field a third. What would that look like? Now we could be taking the same action as India and seeing what our youngsters can do. Imagine USA 2, a team composed of Xiong, Sevian, Niemann, Robson, and Swiercz. USA 3, where we can get a veteran like Onischuk back at the board on a team where we could get experience for players like Yoo and Mishra.

I would love to see this dream become a reality. Let’s keep growing chess here in the US.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Female Only Samford Style Award?

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

I saw the list of 2022 Samford Fellowship awards a couple of days ago, and it was nice to see two female winners this year in Carissa Yip and Alice Lee. In fact, this is the third year in a row that Carissa has made the list, and I imagine that she has been putting the funds to good use based on her continued success at the board.

It’s also Chess Olympiad season right now, and so I’m enthusiastically keeping an eye on the performance of the USA teams. One thing that has struck me is that while the USA Open team has become far and away the team to beat, the USA Women’s team has not achieved nearly that same level of success.

In fact, our ladies have won only two team medals in their entire history (Silver in 2004, and Bronze in 2008) and 3/5 of the team in 2022 have been there since the times of those medals.

This isn’t to cast disparagement on the performance of our current female Olympians. As always, I quite enjoy watching their performance, and am hopeful that they will wind up outperforming their starting position. Yet I keep coming back to the thought that it would be nice if we could create some of the same opportunities for female chess players here at home that we have for men.

The importation of talent such as Levon Aronian, Wesley So and Lenier Dominguez, along with the growth of a player like Sam Shankland mean that some prior stalwarts of the US team, such as Ray Robson and Var Akobian, no longer have a spot on the team. In fact, Shankland only has his spot due to Nakamura turning it down. A fact that Sam is refreshingly honest about as he often openly wonders if the current Olympiad will be his last, which he has done since his first.

Yet on the ladies’ side, we are seeing the return, yet again, of Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih, and Tatev Abrahamyan. Again, please don’t misunderstand, I enjoy watching these ladies play, and often admire their games. I used to follow Tatev’s games quite closely when I was a French Defense player. I can’t help thinking, though, what would it be like if the USA was producing GM’s amongst female players like we are amongst the men?

That brings me back to the topic of this post. How nice would it be if there were some sort of Samford-style award that was for female players only. How long before we would have a Women’s Olympic Team that would be perennial medal contenders?

How long before we would be producing more professional female players? Many of the top US Women’s players, such as Jennifer Yu, seem to have little to no interest in continuing as professionals. In the current climate, it’s hard to blame them.

Anyways, food for thought. I’d love to hear your comments.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Training Update – Finished Kotov

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

As mentioned in previous posts, one of my main training goals this year is to finish four books, one of which was The Science of Strategy by Kotov.

I am happy to report that I finished it. With the material I have remaining in Chess Strategy for Club Players by Grooten, What it Takes to Become a Chess Master by Soltis, and 300 Most Important Chess Positions by Enqvist I need to average a bit over five pages a day for the remainder of 2022.

One thing I did which helped with Kotov is I broke it down near the beginning of July to determine what I would need to get through in order to finish the book by the end of the month. The plan is now to do that with the rest of the books.

For instance, in order to finish Grooten by the end of September I need to finish a bit over five pages per day. This is doable but will take the same type of sustained effort I just put into Kotov.

So that’s the plan. Grooten by the end of September, then Enqvist by the end of November, then Soltis by the end of the year.

So what effects have I seen? I feel that I can 100% tell a difference in my positional understanding of the game. I see themes much better than I ever have, and it manifests itself in a position like this one from one of my recent games.

Here I play 24…Rh3. Sure, there are some tactical ideas with this move, but really the idea is to keep White from playing h4, along with making it hard for White to get his pieces and king unbound.

I do not give sole credit for this to reading books. Just as important is the fact that I’ve been working with GM Elshan Moradiabadi, and those lessons are helping me interpret other material better than I have in the past.

Something I have learned along the way this year is that training is no one thing. You don’t sit down, make some grand plan, and then that’s “THE” thing that will move you along. Instead, you make plans, but you remain flexible. Most of all, you just trust the process.

I see a lot of talk on Chess Twitter from those who are frustrated that they are not seeing more immediate results from their training, and I get it. I’ve been there. That’s been me. Now, however, I keep reminding myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. That nothing worthwhile comes easy, even if it looks that way to others.

So where do we go from here? Well, my rating is 1799 right now. Depending on what happens in my upcoming game on Thursday I’ll either stay around this rating, or drop somewhere between 15-30 Elo. That’s OK. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The fact will remain that I’ve had some great rating gains in the past year.

The goal for this year is to finish over 1800. Then next year we will work on surpassing the all-time peak of 1896.

I can do this as long as I continue to remind myself to trust in the process and to stay focused.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of From Ukraine With Love for Chess

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

From Ukraine With Love for Chess by New in Chess 2022 208pp

This compilation, recently published by New in Chess, is both a triumph and a tragedy. A triumph because it encapsulates the strong tradition of chess in Ukraine, starting with their earliest players from the Soviet days, and continuing on through their World Champions, Ponomariov and Ushenina. Also included are their victories in the Olympiad during the first decade of the new millennium. A tragedy because of the circumstances that caused it to be published.

The idea behind this book is to generate revenue for Ukraine charities which are helping the victims of the unprovoked and unacceptable Russian invasion of Ukraine. All proceeds are going to charities according to the book.

The layout of the book is divided into eight chapters.

Chapter I – The pioneers

Chapter II – Oleg Romanishin’s matches with Mikhail Tal

Chapter III – We are Ukrainian

Chapter IV – Heroic Ivanchuk leads Ukraine to victory at the Calvia Olympiad in 2004

Chapter V – Unstoppable Ukraine – The Women’s Team wins the Turin Olympiad in 2006

Chapter VI – A fully deserved win by Ukraine at the Olympiad in 2010.

Chapter VII – What’s your superpower? I’m Ukrainian!

Chapter VIII – Ukrainian nuggets

The games contained within each chapter are annotated by Ukrainian players, often the player of the game itself. In cases where the annotations are not by the players of the games, the notes are from Ukrainian legends, such as Ivanchuk and Moiseenko.

Although the book itself was somewhat “rushed” in order to get it out the world, in many cases the annotations themselves were not, as they have been published previously.

Prior to the games, there is a short biographical blurb on the Ukrainian player featured. Contained within these are all sorts of interesting tidbits. For instance, while I knew that one of my favorite players, Eljanov, was a second for Gelfand in 2012, I did not realize that he was the son of an IM.

There are also some nicely written sections of prose, including one by Romanishin in which he not only discusses his friendship with Tal and his secret training matches with him, but also his upbringing. He tells a nice story about going to a 1962 friendly match between teams from Yugoslavia and the USSR and collecting autographs while being far too shy to actually talk to the players.

Also included is a republished interview with Tukmakov by Dirk Jan, about the Ukrainian Olympic victory in 2004. Tukmakov was the captain of that team. This is then followed by some of the best games played by the Ukrainian team during that event. Those games are quite deeply annotated and instructive. Of historical interest is the fact that Sergey Karjakin was on that Ukraine team in 2004. For those who may not be aware, Karjakin was born in Ukraine and represented them until 2009 when he switched federations. Somewhere along the way he also lost his damn mind.

The book concludes with a chapter on Ukrainian study composers presented by Jan Timman. While largely unknown to the chess world, their work is worth presenting.

All in all I highly recommend this book. I would like to point out that with this book there seems to be a switch in the paper used by NiC. The paper is not as bright or heavy as most books of recent memory. I assumed that this was a supply issue, but it would appear per a response on a Facebook post that this is going to be the new normal.

As a collector, I do not like this since the book is not as aesthetically pleasing. As a reader though, it is much softer on the eyes. Perhaps I am resisting change solely for the sake of resisting change.

In any case, go buy this book and support Ukraine.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Chicago Class Recap

While you’re here, let me ask for your help. I’d like to keep this blog and journey going in perpetuity, but it’s not free to me.

If you feel like helping me out, and if you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

I just got home from the Chicago Class, and overall I can say I am happy I attended the tournament. I don’t typically play in CCA events for reasons that aren’t that important to discuss here.

This was only my second one ever, and I have to say that I am glad that I went. The real idea here was to see my friends Ryan Murphy and Elshan Moradiabaddi. So on that front the event was a rousing success.

As for the tournament itself, there is definite room for improvement in my games, but I am satisfied with the overall results. All three games were draws, but with me giving up a significant rating differential.

I took a bye in round two to run one of my online events which I do for the company that Ryan and I own, the IAC. I also didn’t play the final round as I am exhausted and also have to work tomorrow until 9pm, so I decided to make the drive home and chill a bit.

So here are my games from rounds one, three, and four.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott