The Deeper Purpose of Tactics

Why do we study tactics?  Is it so we can spot mistakes and win material?

Sure, that’s a part of it.  But only a part.

There are much deeper purposes.  For instance, let’s take a position from my blitz game we just looked at in the last post…

Seeing tactical patterns helps with strategic ideas, like knowing I can ignore the threat of 22.Qe7 since after 22…Qx37 23.Rxe7 I play 23…Bf6 and win material.

It’s also for a position like this.  You’re White in an OTB American tournament and you have two seconds on your clock so all you have to play on here is your five second delay.

Knowing tactical patterns well will let you keep from putting your king on the same color square as your queen pretty much without thinking, taking away any chance of a knight fork by your opponent regardless of how little time you have.

This is why tactics are so important in chess.  Even when they don’t appear on the board, they exist within the variations, to paraphrase Alexei Shirov.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

It’s Never Quite as Bleak as it Seems

I just finished playing a blitz game which seems fairly instructive.

First, let’s look at the whole game:

Now, let’s break this down into some components…

Here is a position coming out of the opening.  It’s Black to move…

Here I felt like I was extremely cramped.  Like I *must* exchange on d5 *or else* – I’m sure you all know the feeling I’m speaking of.

But it’s not really that bad.  In fact, if I can get the dark square bishops off the board and play …e5 then I’m not nearly as cramped as I was before.

For instance…

11…Ng4 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.h3 Nge5 14.Bc2 Nxf3+ 15.Nxf3 e5

OK, White appears to be better here, but this position seems much easier to play.  Key word here though is “seems.”

A few moves later in this position I become desperate to reroute my pieces and I play 14…Bc8.

The problem is that White can swap off a pair of rooks and grab the e-file in a way that really cramps me with:

15.Rxe8+ Nxe8 16.Re1 Nef6 17.h3 and here my pieces are restricted and I’m going to struggle a bit.

My opponent doesn’t see this, and a few moves later we have this on the board:

At this point I’m seeing ghosts.  I play 20…a6 trying to get some counterplay going on the queenside, but the reality is that I have a simple way of eliminating what I am perceiving as the threat of Qe7.  I can just play 20…Nd7, then if 21.Qe7 I force the queen back with 21…Bf6

The problem is that 20…a6 is too slow.  Here they can play 21.Qe7 and now 21…Nd7 no longer works because I’ll never get …Bf6 is, ala 22.Ng5 Rf8 and now there are sacrificial ideas on h5:

Instead my opponent plays 21.Ng5 and here I decide that since I’m in such desperate straits I’m going to lash out and try to regroup, so I play 21…h6 22.Nf3 g5 and here the mouse slip happens.  However, this position is dead won for White.

Either 23.Nf5 or better yet 23.h4 should lead to a quick demise.

But there’s a problem here…let’s go back to this position which we just saw…

I can just play 21…Rb8 and now e7 is tactically protected.  If 22.Qe7 then 22…Qxe7 23.Rxe7 Bf6 wins.

More to the point, after 21…Rb8 I can play …b5 soon and get some actual counterplay going.

The moral of the story?  Had I not been feeling like my position was garbage for the last several moves I would have been more objective and not felt the need to lash out in perceived desperation.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

 

A Game to be Proud Of

This past Thursday at the Southwest Chess Club I finally played a game I feel that I can be proud of.

Perhaps this is a sign that things are turning around as my strategic play was off the charts in this game compared to how I normally play, and for me that’s been such as rare thing.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Interesting Position

Here is the final position from a blitz game I just played on lichess.org

My opponent had 20.6 seconds left but flagged in this position.

What’s interesting about it is that it looked to me like White should be easily winning.  After all, he should be able to pick up my b pawn pretty much any time he likes.  Then doesn’t the a pawn just race down the board?

Well…not so fast.  Rudimentary analysis shows that after 44.Kf3 (or other squares) I can just play 44…Rxg2 and the rook can’t be taken as my bishop would fork on e4.

This means that I should also win the h pawn as well.

There is a lot of counterplay in this position.  So again, it’s quite important to look at these games, even if only for a few seconds, after you win them.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Nice Tactic

These types of tactics have traditionally not been so easy for me to solve.  It all comes down to my board vision issue.

So hopefully the fact that I got this one very quickly is a sign that some work is starting to pay off!

Scroll down to the bottom for the solution.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Solution: 1.Nb5+ cxb5 2.Nb7#

The Blindness…It Burns!

As I mentioned the other day, it’s really important to analyze your blitz games, at least superficially.

So take this position for instance…

Pretty easy to see what the best move is in the position, right?

So why did I leave the queen hanging for so many moves?  It’s a board vision issue.  I’ve been working on this for a while now, and clearly I still have some work to do.

Here’s the entire game.  While I feel that overall my play was pretty good (especially since I’m horrible at blitz) I also know that I can’t go away thinking I did well here.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Tactics With a Grain of Salt

One thing that I think is important to remember when working on chess is that while things like accuracy do matter, it’s also important to take them with the occasional grain of salt.

For instance, look at this puzzle.

It’s white to move and it’s mate in two.

Now, the correct answer is at the bottom of the page below the Patreon info.  Scroll down when you would like to see it.

Now, when I initially solve the puzzle I solved it as 1.Rb3 g3 2.Rd3 (or lots of other third rank squares) g2 3.Rh3# (For some unknown reason my brain was saying this was a mate in four, not three…who knows why…)

So here’s the thing…technically my answer was “wrong” and would be considered a fail on any tactics app, etc.  But in reality since the entire line was forced it’s important to remember that this solution would work from a practical standpoint in a game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

1.Rb4 g3 2.Kf5#

Giri Is a Fighter

Yeah, yeah…Giri + Any Opponent = Draw.

I’ve heard it all before a thousand times.  And sure, in the 2016 Candidates tournament he completed the Full Giri and drew all of his games.  But his play tends to run anything but lifeless.

Here’s an excellent game from back in January at Wijk.  I particularly enjoy the way he plays this opening.  It’s rare to see any of the non-g3 lines in the English these days.

This game is a strategic masterpiece.

Here’s a nice video made by Agadmator.  If you’re not familiar with him you would do well to subscribe to his YouTube channel.  His videos are always entertaining and instructive.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

A Blitz Game Inspired by Neal Bruce

For those who aren’t aware of Neal, he’s a guy who’s pretty active on Twitter and Facebook and takes his chess improvement quite seriously.

I don’t know him at all other than some online interactions, but he’s been posting a lot of tactics puzzles and some tactics from his blitz games recently.

This game which I just played seems like exactly the kind of thing he’s been looking at lately.

This one’s for you Neal…

I was quite proud of the fact that I instantly saw that …b5 was a mistake that could be easily capitalized on.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

The World Championship is Boring!

I have heard this argument from numerous chess fans over the years.  The current format of the world championship is “boring” because “everyone knows” that the players will just “play for draws.”

These discussions always devolve into some sort of “How can the players be made to play more interesting chess?” discussions.

Simultaneously with that there are discussions about women’s chess.  How “everyone knows” that “those games just aren’t as good” etc.

Ten days ago the Women’s world championship began in Shanghai.  I felt like I was one of maybe 1% of chess fans who knew this match was taking place or cared about it.

Then I see my friend Sabina tweet this.

And she’s absolutely right.  Because truth be told, the handful of discussions I have seen about this match have mostly been “box score” style tweets/posts/etc. pointing out the results of the most recent game.

Sadly, some of the discussions I have seen have focused solely on the ratings of the players, with one person saying that “This match is getting exactly the attention you would expect in a contest between the 399th and 732nd ranked players in the world.”

Here’s the problem with all of this…

First, this is a world championship.  Therefore, by definition it matters.

Next, if someone is going to complain that the World Championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin was boring because there were too many draws then perhaps they should open their eyes and look at this match.  In the seven games completed so far there have been two draws.  Two.

(above graphic from www.theweekinchess.com)

The quality of the games has been good.

Game One saw a long attempt at pressing an ending that fizzled out into a draw.

Game Two seen Ju sac a pawn for great initiative that she smashes through and converts.  I suspect that the pgn file for this game is wrong since 56…Rc1+ wins easily.  It’s hard to believe that Ju missed this and that Tan would then miss the draw after 57.Rxd1.

In Game Three Ju took a 2-0 lead in the match with an absolute crush.  Tan played 14…g5 which seems quite silly with the king in the center and no real way to bring pressure on White’s kingside.

Down two games, the World Champion strikes back.  After a relatively unambitious opening (some sort of Torre/Colle thing…don’t ask me, I’m not an openings expert!) Tan gets a little pressure building on the kingside when Ju overextends herself.  Tan first cracks open the kingside and then finishes the game off with a beautiful queen sac.

In the last game to the played in Shanghai (the match is split with the first five games in Shanghai and the final five in Chongqing) the champion decides to again attempt an unambitious opening (this time the Bishop’s Opening) but the challenger again moves her lead out to two points at 3-1 by first building up a strong center and then showing some excellent technique in converting it.

In the first game in Chongqing the champion again brings home the full point, this time in a 125 move marathon.  Pay attention to the beautiful idea with 26…c4.  I like how Tan gets rid of her own potential backwards c pawn target in a way that forces Ju to either cripple her own structure to “win” the pawn which she will likely lose back eventually and then be faced with a dangerous looking queenside majority or to play as she did and simply give back the pawn immediately.

Now Tan has left Ju without a target and at the same time forced her to air out her king a little bit.

After then winning a pawn and getting rooks off the board Tan shows why she’s a champion by patiently converting a queen ending.

Game Seven was a draw that never really got off the ground too much.  I would imagine the players were exhausted after the Game Six battle.

So there you have it.  A match which has been anything but boring that seems likely to conclude in a quite exciting finish!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter.  Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.