When You See a Good Move

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Many chess players are familiar with the quote by the second world champion, Emmanuel Lasker, that “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

Knowing the quote and taking the advice are clearly different things.

Thursday I was foundering in the opening, and so afterwards a friend of mine was showing me this line he plays as White against the Sveshnikov. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nb5 d6 7.Nd5 we reach this position:

Of course Black can’t take the “hanging” pawn on e4 since there’s a knight check on c7 picking up a rook

Wait a minute…it’s not just a rook. The only move is 8…Kd7 and now after 9.Qg4+ f5 10.Qxf5 is mate!

I start wondering if anyone has ever taken the e4 pawn, so I check. There are two games in my database. There’s this one:

And then there’s this one:

Notice that the first game is a blitz game, whereas the second game appears to be a classical tournament game. In that second game a player of almost 2100 FIDE strength misses a mate in two. My guess…he forgot to look for a better move.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Thoughts on the US Championship Format

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In 2014 I attended my second US Championship as a spectator. The year prior had seen a 24 player Swiss, which was interesting as it featured many players who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to play. Some of those players, Conrad Holt, for instance, who scored +2, proved that they could play on that stage when given a chance.

In 2014 though, we were back to the standard 12 player round robin. At this point in time, a mere eight years ago, it was still possible to get into the event with a sub-2600 rating, and the field featured only one 2700 player, Gata Kamsky.

Contrast that with today. In 2021 the only way to get in as a 2500 rated player is to win the US Open or to get the wild card invite. On the one hand, this is great for US Chess to have so many strong players, On the other, it means that a lot of players who would benefit greatly from the experience of a strong round robin event are not going to get the chance.

Let’s take a look at the top 12 in the US right now:

# Name Title Fed Rating G B-Year
 1  Caruana, Fabiano  g  USA  2783  0  1992
 2  Aronian, Levon  g  USA  2775  0  1982
 3  So, Wesley  g  USA  2773  9  1993
 4  Nakamura, Hikaru  g  USA  2760  0  1987
 5  Dominguez Perez, Leinier  g  USA  2754  0  1983
 6  Shankland, Sam  g  USA  2720  9  1991
 7  Xiong, Jeffery  g  USA  2691  8  2000
 8  Niemann, Hans Moke  g  USA  2688  27  2003
 9  Sevian, Samuel  g  USA  2684  8  2000
 10  Oparin, Grigoriy  g  USA  2683  9  1997
 11  Robson, Ray  g  USA  2682  3  1994
 12  Kamsky, Gata  g  USA  2655  8  1974

It’s safe to assume that not all of these players would accept an invite (Kamsky and Nakamura, for instance, certainly won’t be playing this year) and so one or two players further down the list will get a chance. Additionally, between the wild card and the US Open winner there will be a couple of players outside this list who would play.

But that leaves out a lot of up-and-coming players who certainly would very much benefit from the chance to play strong events. Think Yoo, Mishra, Liang, etc.

I’ve long been a fan of the top Soviet players since they had dominated chess for 25 years before I was born until the fall of the USSR. One thing that I was always fascinated by is how they kept cranking out such strong players, seemingly year after year.

One thing that the USSR did that aided in player development was to have both semifinals and then finals of the Soviet Chess Championships. So I’ve been thinking, why can’t we do that here?

Imagine a scenario in which instead of inviting the top 10 players by rating, along with the two seeded-in players, we held two semifinals, followed by the final. I picture it like this: two 12-player semifinals in which three players each qualify for the final, along with six players seeded directly into the final.

The seeded players would be the prior year’s champion, along with the top five players by rating. Under that system 2022 would see our top six players since So is the defending champ.

# Name Title Fed Rating G B-Year
 1  Caruana, Fabiano  g  USA  2783  0  1992
 2  Aronian, Levon  g  USA  2775  0  1982
 3  So, Wesley  g  USA  2773  9  1993
 4  Nakamura, Hikaru  g  USA  2760  0  1987
 5  Dominguez Perez, Leinier  g  USA  2754  0  1983
 6  Shankland, Sam  g  USA  2720  9  1991

Below that you would have the two semifinals, which would consist of a couple of wildcards, along with the US Open winner, etc.

So let’s take players 7-30 on the top player list:

# Name Title Fed Rating G B-Year
7  Xiong, Jeffery  g  USA  2691  8  2000
 8  Niemann, Hans Moke  g  USA  2688  27  2003
 9  Sevian, Samuel  g  USA  2684  8  2000
 10  Oparin, Grigoriy  g  USA  2683  9  1997
 11  Robson, Ray  g  USA  2682  3  1994
 12  Kamsky, Gata  g  USA  2655  8  1974
 13  Swiercz, Dariusz  g  USA  2652  0  1994
 14  Onischuk, Alexander  g  USA  2640  0  1975
 15  Liang, Awonder  g  USA  2625  6  2003
 16  Bruzon Batista, Lazaro  g  USA  2623  0  1982
 16  Zherebukh, Yaroslav  g  USA  2623  0  1993
 18  Akopian, Vladimir  g  USA  2620  17  1971
 19  Naroditsky, Daniel  g  USA  2617  3  1995
 20  Gareyev, Timur  g  USA  2597  9  1988
 21  Akobian, Varuzhan  g  USA  2591  9  1983
 22  Quesada Perez, Yuniesky  g  USA  2583  0  1984
 23  Christiansen, Larry  g  USA  2577  0  1956
 24  Burke, John M  g  USA  2575  17  2001
 25  Lenderman, Aleksandr  g  USA  2572  14  1989
 26  Ramirez, Alejandro  g  USA  2561  0  1988
 27  Mishra, Abhimanyu  g  USA  2553  9  2009
 27  Holt, Conrad  g  USA  2553  0  1993
 29  Yoo, Christopher Woojin  g  USA  2550  8  2006
 30  Kaidanov, Gregory  g  USA  2548  8  1959

Imagine a scenario in which many of those players suddenly are playing an 11-round event in which they are fighting for three spots in the US Championship. There would be two of these events as there would be two semifinals feeding into the final.

How much stronger could the US get if we were doing this? The cost to do this is not nominal, but assuming that the Saint Louis Chess Club, by way of the Sinquefields, were willing to pick up the tab, I think we come out much stronger as a chess nation within just a few years.

Food for thought.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Mid-Year Training Update

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Now that we’re at the halfway point of 2022 it’s time for an update on how the training has been going.

At the beginning of the year I made the following “resolutions” in a blog post:

So here are my resolutions for 2022, which just so happens to be one calendar year.

  1. Annotate and publish those annotations to every classical game I play. This will include me taking a few minutes immediately after every game to jot down a few notes about what I was feeling/thinking, as well as trying to capture the lines I calculated at the board. Yes, I will engine check this analysis, but I will do it by hand prior and will note when there was something critical that I missed that the engine found.
  2. Continue my streak on Chessable. Currently that stands at 626 days, and my intention is to not stop – ever. I don’t use the freeze protect anything. Those are 626 actual days. Some where I might have done all of 1-2 lines just to keep the streak going, and some where I did hundreds to really work.
  3. Work on openings. For real. For 2022 I give myself the goal of being able to competently play the Caro-Kann and the Slav by the time we get out of the year. I really want to get in tune with the Caro-Slav pawn structure and understand those …e5 and …c5 breaks.
  4. Read four books cover to cover, not counting the ones that I read for revies or the ones I pick up and play through a game of two from. The four books are 300 Most Important Chess Positions by Enqvist; Chess Strategy for Club Players by Grooten; What it Takes to Become a Chess Master by Soltis; The Science of Strategy by Kotov. As you can see, strategic/positional play will be the theme of these books.
  5. Get in much better physical shape. I used to enjoy working out and lifting weights in my youth. I need to get back to that. Some of you witnessed me wrestle a former NFL player when I was 44 or 45 🙂 So I’m not afraid of physicality, I just need to get back to wanting to do the hard work/heavy lifting.
  6. Enjoy myself and trust in the process.

So now let’s take those one by one and break them down.

  1. Annotate and publish the annotations. I am going to give myself a C on this. I haven’t published much in the way of annotated games. That doesn’t, however, mean that I haven’t been doing the work. I have gone over almost every game I have played this year in reasonable detail. I need to publish them on the blog though. I’ve been giving this some thought, and I might start publishing an entire tournament worth at a time like I did with the Perelman Memorial games.
  2. Continue my streak on Chessable. Here I have to give myself an F. I managed to miss a day after 676 days. The good news is that my current streak is back to 113 days. Again, I don’t use the restore or freeze protect or anything like that. Yes, it sucks to lose that streak, but it’s not the end of the world. Besides, in around a year and a half I can be right back there!
  3. Work on openings. Here I will give myself a B. The goal was to get the Slav and the Caro up to relatively high levels. I am making progress in that regard. I have played some nice games in both openings, but more importantly I have learned a lot. My understanding is coming along, and the hope is that if I continue to grow at the same pace, I’ll have a decent level of understanding with both of these.
  4. Read four books cover to cover. I’ll give myself a C- on this one. I have been reading a bit, but not enough. The four books I am reading total 1,151 pages. I have read 138 of those pages. This leaves 1,103 pages to go. With 184 days left in the year I need to average 5.5 pages a day in order to finish all four. I think that this is doable, but I need to embrace the idea of reading something like 15-20 pages on weekend days and maybe another 5-10 if I get time during a weekday. That’s doable.
  5. Get in much better physical shape. I’m going to give myself a qualified C- here as well. For the last few weeks, I have worked diligently at this and am showing results. But it took me until now to start. Having said that, I’m on the longest streak of my adult life where I have had no sweets by choice. As I am type 2 better control of my blood sugar does lead to much better calculating ability due to less brain fog.
  6. Enjoy myself and trust in the process. Here I am going to give myself an A. I have most certainly maintained trust in the process and am enjoying myself.

So overall I am happy with how the year is going, though I understand I have a lot of work to do. I have gained over 100 rating points this year and am close to surpassing 1800 again. I’ll take it.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Verbus-Wainscott 0-1

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Part of my goal this year is to get every game I played annotated and published here. I have been semi-lazy about that goal, but here is the earliest game I have annotated for the year so far. It took place in the third round of my first tournament.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Daniel Perelman Memorial Tournament

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Recently a former member of the Southwest Chess Club, Daniel Perelman, passed away at the untimely age of 18 in a plane crash as he was training to get his pilot’s license.

We changed the name of our most recent tournament to the Daniel Perelman Memorial. Here are my games with analysis. This was an up and down event for me. I won two nice games. I lost horribly in one, and I drew one after missing a free rook.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Chess Blindness

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In my Thursday game this past week I sat down to play Minghang Chen, who’s a solid 1800 player. I had a good feeling all day and was in a great frame of mind at the board.

I had the White pieces and in short order I achieved an almost winning position:

A few moves later we reach this position and now I’m thinking it’s time to get my material back and win some of my own.

After taking the d pawn, we arrive at

And now I can just bail out into a better position with Re6, but my idea is to capture on f6 with the d6 rook. So I do, and Black captures back.

Here I can just take again on f6 and then after …Bc3 Qb6 I have an edge

Instead I decide (correctly) that Qxe5 is much better.

Now I start thinking that Black might have something with …Bc3, and this is where chess blindness kicks in. Black plays the move.

The blindness takes two forms here. It starts with the fact that for some reason I’m not realizing that my rook on f1 is protected by the bishop. So I play what I feel is the forced 34.Qxc3 Qxc3  35.Nxc3 and offer a draw, which was accepted (I’m going to lose the c pawn, so I’m probably on the worse end of this draw, but my opponent had little time left on the clock.)

However, do you spot what I  missed?

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Yep, I can just play 34.Qxb8 and I’m completely winning. The rook on b8 hangs, but since in my mind I think that my rook on f1 is hanging with check I don’t see this at all.

Chess blindness is a disease which must be eradicated.

Here is the whole game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

20 Move Win in the Caro-Kann

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Not often you get a chance to win a game this quickly in this opening.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Nice Puzzle From Sherlock’s Method

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Here’s a nice puzzle from Sherlock’s Method by GM Elshan Moradiabadi and WGM Sabina Foiser.

To see the solution, contained within the game, click here. The position is after Black’s 26th move.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

Positional Pawn Sac: Smyslov-Euwe Zurich 53

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Here is a game that I was looking at this morning in 300 Most Important Chess Positions which is one of my four books for 2022.

In this position Black has just played 6…h6, which allows White to open the game immediately with a pawn sac with 7.e4 which gains the initiative.

My pgn editor isn’t working currently, so here is a link to the game.

Vasily Smyslov vs Max Euwe (1953) (chessgames.com)

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Updates are Coming

While your 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.

Sorry for my relative inactivity here. I have been busy working, both in the chess world, and in the corporate world.

I am on a business trip to Denver next week, and will have some time to work on the blog, so I hope to post a lot more of my game analysis and some other training updates.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott