Central Pawn Control

Here is an interesting position from the game Botvinnik – Kan Leningrad 1939

One of the reasons that I find it interesting is that if you asked me to evaluate this just a few years ago I’d have looked at White’s pawn structure and instantly said Black must be better.

However, while in most endgames White would clearly be losing, there’s a long way to go until the endgame in this position.

In fact, as Botvinnik himself points out in hit notes to this game, the doubled pawns have one serious advantage, which is that White wants to play e4 to absolutely solidify his grip on d5, and when he does he won’t be giving up the d4 square in his own camp as the pawn on c3 nicely guards it.

The grip on d5 means that one natural plan would be to reroute the knight to d5, and in fact Isaac Lipnitsky discusses this in his excellent Soviet classic Questions of Modern Chess Theory.

It is worth noting, however, that just because that can be a plan, it shouldn’t automatically be the plan you use.  I’ll leave it to the reader to purchase a copy of this excellent book for themselves to learn why in this game that plan doesn’t make sense.

In the meantime here is the entire game:

Of course sometimes it does make perfect sense to plant a knight on d5 in these structures.

Here is an example of when that plan works quite nicely.

The moral to the story is that central control can be a wonderful thing to have, but that it’s a multifaceted beast with no canned solution.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

GM’s Want More

Yesterday a couple of friends and I were analyzing Gawain Jones’ first round game at the London Chess Classic Open event.

This was the position after White’s 10th move.

So we’re calculating 10…Nxc3 and every line we’re looking at leads to advantage for Black.

Yet GM’s always look to maximize the position.  So Gawain played 10…Nd6, which is clearly better.

The lesson here is one as old as the game itself.  When you see a good move, look for a better one.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Cardinal Sin

Last Sunday in my fourth game of the Sevan Muradian Memorial I committed two cardinal sins at the end of the game.

First, here was the position.  I have just played 27…Qe3+

My opponent, who has about 11 minutes left (time control was G/90+30 sec) looks up and says “Draw?” and I shake his hand.  The two sins?  First of all, I should insist he play a move and then I should have spent as much of the 34 minutes that I had left deciding whether to accept or not.

As it turns out, Black is completely winning – at least according to the engine.  The win is simple if White plays 28.Rdc2 as Black plays 28…Qe1+ 29.Rc1 Rb1+ – I’ll leave you work through the lines.

If White plays 28.Rcc2 then the win isn’t quite that easy.  In fact, neither myself nor my opponent found it in analysis and we went over the game for close to an hour afterwards.  Nevertheless, there is a win there.  The sin isn’t that I didn’t find it, the sin is that I didn’t look.

So why didn’t I look?  Why didn’t I get into the mindset of fighting til the last breath to bring home the point?  Simple, because I had put myself in the mindset of needing to survive.

Let’s look at the position after my 21st move.

Here I’m in some pretty serious trouble.  White can play c4 and then my knight is running out of squares.  Instead, White blunders away his e pawn two moves later by playing 23.Rd2 in this position.

Now the emotional rollercoaster of chess is in full force.  It’s been even – no, I’m losing, – no, I’m winning!

A couple of moves later I’ve given back the pawn I’m up and here we are in the critical position.

So now I’m trying to find a win but not seeing anything direct.  The downside here is that I’m having a truly difficult time keeping the thread of this game.  The position has been sharp enough that the thought of making a slip and losing is creeping in, although I’m fighting to hold it at bay.

And now I’m looking at the above position, and I realize that I can take on c3 and pretty much guarantee myself the opportunity for the perpetual since if White doesn’t recapture he’s going to wind up in pretty deep.

So I go for it.  And my opponent offers me the draw.  But instead of insisting that he offer it properly and then evaluate for a long time I jump at the chance.

I’m not mad I didn’t see the win.  I’m mad I didn’t look.

This seems to be a matter of pure psychology, so therefore it should be correctable, although it may require quite a lot of work.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

An Important Endgame Stalemate Theme

This is an important position to remember in rook vs pawn endings.

This position generally arises when there is a pawn on g7 which would be promoted on the next move if not captured.

The reason that this is such an important position has to do with transitions.

Take this position for example.

This is the game Comas Fabrego – Piket 1998.  Here White has just played 67.Kf5 attacking Black’s rook.  The key here is that Black needs to play 67…Re8.  This will tactically protect the pawn on f6 as after 68.Kxf6 Kf3 the first white pawn will fall, following shortly by the second.

Instead Black plays 67…Ra6 and White saves the draw by knowing the position we started out with.  Please feel free to try to work out the idea yourself as a training exercise.

Here is the complete game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Wainscott-Haining 1-0

This past Thursday I continued my return to form with a  nice win.  I felt good about finding 14.b4 as that tells me that my positional understanding is getting much better.

The Generosity of Hikaru Nakamura

The Second Annual Sevan Muradian Memorial is fast approaching thanks to the hard work and dedication of Glenn Panner and Daniel Parmet, among others.

The best part about this tournament is that any profits go to Sevan’s widow and daughters.

A couple of weeks ago I had the idea that it would be cool to hold a silent auction to help raise some additional funds.  I figured that between Daniel, Glenn, and myself we know enough chess world people to be able to get a few things signed.  Sadly this idea came too late in order to really maximize it, but I figured anything would help.

So I reached out to Hikaru and asked if he’d sign a couple of boards for the auction.  I know that Hikaru had a lot of respect for Sevan, and so I wasn’t surprised when he quickly and enthusiastically offered to do so.

Since he was going to be playing in St. Louis for the Champions Showdown (which is currently taking place as I write this) the plan was for me to send the boards to him there.

Yesterday he messaged me to say that the boards arrived.  And that’s when it happened…

He asked if there was a fund for Sevan.  I said that there was a gofundme for his daughters immediately after Sevan died, but that had been closed for some time, but that the profits from this tournament would be donated to the family.

“OK, I’ll match what you raise.”

It’s not often that I find myself having a hard time finding something to say, but this was one of those times.

When all is said and done, Hikaru will be personally matching funds raised, up to $3,000 for this event.

So if you haven’t registered to play yet, please do so.  You’ll have a four time US Champion who’s been a top ten GM for years backing you up.

What an amazing act of generosity.  I’m proud to call Hikaru a friend.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

OMG Ding Liren!

I’m almost done with the main project I have been working on which has taken up so much of my time.

So in the next few days you can expect me to be back to training and posting on a much more regular basis.

I have some nice stuff to post, including what’s probably the best endgame I’ve ever played in my life – certainly in terms of devising a plan and using tactical means to pull it off.

In the meantime, if you haven’t heard about this, you will soon.  Ding Liren set the chess world on fire yesterday with his brilliant win in the Chinese League over Bai Jinshi.

Here’s video analysis of the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Been in the Bunker for a While

It’s been a while I posted here.  This isn’t because I’ve lost interest in chess and improving, it’s because I’ve been busy with many chess-related projects which have taken some time away from being able to blog.

For those who subscribe to American Chess Magazine, you may have noticed that I am now an Associate Editor there.  My first piece ran in the most recent issue (a profile of the Webster University team) and I spent a lot of time finishing up my second piece, which will run in the next issue.

I am also working for the first time as editor on an upcoming chess book.  That hasn’t taken a ton of time yet, but it will over the coming weeks.

Playing wise I’m finally back on the upswing.  I seem to have this pattern which repeats where I gain a ton of points, drop 150, then go 100+ past the prior high water mark before repeating.  If that’s the case here, then hopefully this will be the surge that eventually takes me over 1900.

I also plan on setting up a plan to get to 2000.  I’ve been researching the process of learning itself so that I can hopefully put together a training plan in a proper way.

One thing which I have been doing for a week or so now is I saw this class by IM Danny Rensch where he gave the tip that if a student has a plan, like say “Today I’m going to do 30 minutes of tactics and then 30 minutes on rook endings” that he recommends you develop the discipline to finish what you have planned before allowing yourself to move on to the next thing.

As an example, let’s say you’re working on the 30 minutes of tactics and you get several in a row wrong and you’re frustrated and want to say “forget this” and move on to the endgames.  Under Rensch’s methodology this isn’t allowed.  You have to develop the discipline to finish the first thing before you can move on to the next.

What’s interesting with this philosophy is that it drove home the point to me that I waffle a lot in my study.  I start out intending to do one thing, then wind up doing many things that weren’t on the list originally.  This really made me see how unorganized my study has been.

I think that perhaps the issue I’ve been having of late is that it’s easier to get away with unfocused study up to a point.  Since you need to learn approximately five times less to go from 1500-1600 than you do to go from 1800-1900 it’s easier to get there even while more or less drifting through study sessions.

So far I’ve had sessions that consisted of:

30 minutes of tactics, followed by playing through an annotated game in a line I play.

30 minutes of tactics, followed by playing through the Game of the Century

30 minutes of tactics followed by playing through an annotated game in the most recent New in Chess.

120 minutes of tactics

30 minutes of tactics followed by 60 minutes on rook endings.

As you can see, I’m still working heavily on tactics in my study routine.  It’s interesting because I’ve been focusing on this heavily for the past couple of years, but this week I realized that I like to only do a handful and then just move on to something else in an unfocused way.

That’s not going to work to get to Expert.  And clearly Expert is the next main step on the road to master.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Rounds 5-8 Isle of Aman

Sorry for the lack of updates here recently, but between Thursday playing and directing, Friday family stuff, and yesterday finishing an article for American Chess Magazine I wasn’t able to keep up as well as I would have liked to.

Round five saw Aman paired against Armenian GM Gabriel Sargissian.  Aman needed a win to realistically keep his hopes alive, but unfortunately the noted endgame player Sargissian ground him down in a more or less equal ending.

In round six Aman had Black vs. English IM David Eggleston.  Aman played his third different response to 1.e4 in this tournament, this time essaying the Sicilian Kan.

Once he secured a passed c pawn that was running to daylight Eggleston resigned.

Round Eight once again had Hambo paired against a tough GM, this time the Peruvian legend Julio Granda-Zuniga.

Long time readers of mine will know that I often cover Julio’s games since he was the first GM I ever met, way back in 1992 in my hometown in Midland, TX when he played in a small local event of ours since he was in town seeing a family friend.

After a maneuvering game in the Old Indian Aman unfortunately stepped in to a tactical shot and was soon put away by the Peruvian.

Right now Aman is playing his final round game against American IM Kostya Kavutskiy, which I will post later once the games are published.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Hambo the Hobo Manages the 1-0

Today in Round Five of the Isle of Man chess tournament Aman managed to win a nice grinding game.

The above photo was shared on the chessbrahTV Twitter account, so it would appear to be one of the lads poking fun at Hambo.  It also happens to be hilarious!

Aman quickly gained a protected passed pawn, but it didn’t seem likely that he would ever be able to get it moved.  A clinic on maneuvering then ensued as the pieces were shuffled until Hambleton was able to sac on e5 on his 98th move!  From that point on it was a fairly one sided affair.

Tomorrow Aman is matched up against Armenian Gabriel Sargissian, who suffered a defeat at the hands of Hikaru Nakamura today and will likely be out for a little revenge.

This will be a good test for Aman who needs pairings like that for the rest of the tournament.

Here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott