Centralization and You

OK, not you…me.  Centralization and me.  My understanding seems to be the same as trying to combine oil and water.  I can swish it around as much as I want, but I can’t get it to mesh.

I say this based off of my performance in the chapter on centralization in the first Yusupov book.  OK, on the one hand I scored 12 points, which is the minimum passing grade.  So that’s something.  On the other hand, this is a concept that I struggle with.

So how to fix it?  How can I go from oil and water to just pure water?

Well, it seems like this one is going to take a lot of deliberate practice.  So my current plan is to play through raw game scores of a couple of hundred GM games a week and pay attention to this theme.

If someone out there has a better/smarter way I am all ears.  In the meantime, playing through those scores (likely through TWIC on my laptop) won’t take too long at all and I should be able to learn a thing or two.

Take this game for example, played at the recently concluded Shenzhen Masters (won by Ding Liren in a strong performance.)  Notice how Giri manages to centralize the bishops allowing him to pressure White.

I’m also going through that chapter over and over again to try to get the message to sink in.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Misunderstanding All You See

This lyric from the great John Lennon pretty much sums up my performance this past Thursday.

Here is a position.  It’s White (me) to move.  I have decided that I can’t win this position after having felt like I was better.  I decided to just play a move and offer a draw, but I didn’t really take a look to figure out how Jim might try to win this (third misunderstanding – why third and not first?  You’ll see that I misunderstood things earlier as well!)

So I play 41.Kf3?? and it’s the losing move.  After the game I felt that I could have played “either Kd3 or f4 and would have been fine.”  But f4 also loses since I can’t keep the Black king from getting the c4 (fourth misunderstanding.)

In this earlier position my opponent, Jim Coons, has just played …Kh7 and offered me a draw.  I felt I was better (first misunderstanding) and then felt that it would be easier to win this without queens since I’d no longer need to worry about keeping his queen out of my position (second misunderstanding) and so I played 33.Qe7 and Jim immediately traded queens.

After the game Jim told me that he felt that I was lost from this point on and I strongly disagreed.  He looked at the game on his iPad with Stockfish and told me the computer agrees.

I wasn’t going to disagree with the computer per se, so I ran it through Stockfish 8 on my laptop and after thinking for a while the machine agrees that while slightly worse, overall I’m fine here.

However, where I missed the boat was in not understanding that with the queens still on the board then all of the typical zugzwang motifs in these same colored bishop endings are negated.

Here is the entire game – featuring 9.Rb1, a move that shows I really need to work on this opening!

Had I drawn this game my rating would have remained relatively flat for this tournament, but as it was I lost 16 points, dropping me to 1785 and leaving me with a lot of work to do in the Publisher’s Challenge.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Training Update

It’s been a while since I last posted a training update, so there are a few things to go over!

First, the fact that I have not written about training in a bit certainly does not mean that I have not been doing any!

Two weeks ago I was on the road for work, and what else does one have to do in a hotel room after work other than study chess?  Certainly nothing productive.

So for three straight days I got off work at 4pm local time, made it back to the hotel and had dinner and a break by 5:30 and then spent the next three to five hours studying chess!

I was getting through a couple of Yusupov chapters per day, along with a bit of Positional Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand and some of Nikos’ excellent book on playing 1…e5.

Granted, this was only for a few days, but I actually found the increased activity level refreshing.

After than the level of study dropped off a little bit, but mostly due to life interfering.  When I made it back to Wisconsin I only had about half an hour to spend at home relaxing and then it was right into the car to drive an hour and a half up north to function as one of the tournament directors for the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Championships.

I wasn’t able to get much work in that way, but I did get in a late night analysis session with a couple of friends, so it was better than nothing.

However, when I made it home and was ready to resume studying we had some flooding in the basement of our house, and I lost a couple of days of study time to dealing with cleaning up the mess left from that.

However, by Thursday I was back in the saddle and won the game in my previous post.  Clearly I have some room to improve there as well, but at least things are heading in the right direction.

Tonight was a good session of Gelfand, and after I finish typing this I am going to hop in to a chapter of Yusupov as well.  Speaking of the Yusupov Challenge, you can see Jacob Aagaard discuss this topic with the author himself on a Quality Chess Vlog here.

Speaking of Jacob, I went to him for some nutritional advice, and he really delivered.  My wife and I were both very grateful for the advice he gave and I can say that the past several lunches I have had were mostly vegan and there are more to come there.

I remain convinced that improving my diet will help me study with a much higher level of focus that I am currently bringing to the table.

So all in all my work on the Quality Book challenge seems to be progressing around a month and a half in.

My rating remains flat, but my playing schedule will pick up as the year goes on and I will have many more chances to put my increased knowledge to work.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott


Lucky, Not Good

There is a saying that it’s better to be lucky that good, but that’s not the case in chess.  OK, rating wise, who doesn’t want some luck, but that won’t make you better in the long run.

Take this position from the game Wainscott – Gill from two days ago.

Seeing the threat against the queen the instinct is to move it.  So Governor plays 34…Qc3, but now after 35.Rc2 the queen is lost.

However, had he fought the instinct to move the attacked piece and looked a bit deeper perhaps he would have found 34…b5, which saves the queen with a nice counterattack.

So all in all I’ll take it, but I am not in any way satisfied with my play in this game.  I felt I was better, but then 29…Qh4 fell from the sky like a Thunderbolt and I was in some pretty serious trouble.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott


Proper Thinking in van der Wiel – Yusupov 1978 (0-1)

Since my return from vacation I have returned to Yusupov and here is a position from a 1978 game of the authors which I found intrinsically interesting.

Here is the position with Black to move:

The correct move here is 21…d5, and the reason is that it prevents castling.  After all 22.0-0 Qc5+ is brutal.

So by playing …d5 Black accomplishes a couple of things, but chief among them is the prevention of White from castling.

Here is the entire game:

One reason that I find this position to be so interesting is that it pays tribute to a saying of Shirov in one of his recent DVD’s, which is that tactics “exist within the variations” of high level games.  Meaning that while the combinations themselves rarely appear over the board, the threat of them still controls the play as it does here.

So in the initial position above the important thing to remember is John Nunn’s maxim LPDO (loose pieces drop off) which in this case means that Black is able to take advantage of White’s loose bishop by preventing castling.

It’s all about the approach.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Back From Vacation

After a relaxing week spent in Turks and Caicos I am back and ready to rock.

I didn’t fully leave chess behind during that week.  I took Glenn Flear’s Tactimania book with me and spent a few minutes here and there solving some tactical positions.  Granted, I didn’t do it in a rigid and structured way, but after all, I was on a family vacation.

As for the book, I think that Andrew Greet gave it quite the ringing endorsement when he said that he used it as part of his prep for the Olympiad.

Last night I got back to the real work of chess study, though not for as long as I would have liked.  I was only able to get in about 30 minutes, but what a 30 minutes it was.

Knowing that I had neither the time nor the energy for Yusupov last night I decided to work on some lines as White in the Slav.  I’m using Avrukh’s book on the Queen’s Gambit for this.

One of the positions I was looking at was this one, which delivers quite an important lesson.

Here is it White to move.  As you can see, b3 was played earlier.  The bishop clearly belongs on b2, otherwise there is no reason to have played b3.  So should White just move 7.Bb2 right now?  After all, the knight on d2 is attacked twice, but also defended twice.

Well, as it turns out the answer is that 7.Bb2 is a pretty serious inaccuracy which is exposed by 7…Qf6.

White now quickly gets in to trouble since now the knight on d2 is threatened.  Black is now threatening to play 8…Bxd2 and White cannot respond with 9.Nxd2 as 9…Qxf2 mates.

So in the first position above White needs to play 7.a3 and after 7…Bd6 White can put the bishop on b2.  However, the instinct so often is to play the move that looks so automatic and natural in the opening.

These are the types of themes that I need to learn in my opening play.  It’s not about memorizing lines (though doing so can be useful as long as it’s backed with understanding,) it’s about grasping nuances like this and understand the positions reached better as a result.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Perfect, Save for One

As part of the Book Challenge I am currently working on the first of the ten volume Yusupov series.

I managed a perfect score on the first test save for this one position with Black to move.

Here I correctly found the first move, but then after White’s reply I missed the best continuation.

The game is listed between N.N. – Morphy so I’m assuming it’s likely from a simul or was some sort of odds game.  The position was not in my database, but I don’t have Megabase.

Highlight the text between the brackets for the solution.

[ 1…Ng3 is the first move, which I saw.  My thought process was that the knight can’t be taken since White’s queen would hang, and if White takes Black’s queen with 2.Qxh7 then 2…Nde2 mates.  However, what I missed was that after 2.Qxd4 Ne2+ 3.Kh1 the correct move is not to take the Queen with 3…Nxd4 but rather for Black to sac his queen with 3…Qxh7+ 4.Kxh7 Rh8+ ]

I’m still please with the first test’s overall results, but I will continue to strive for perfection.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Strongest Win Ever (Wainscott – Wallach 1-0)

This game was my third of the day on the first day of the USATN last weekend in Schaumburg.

I haven’t analyzed it deeply but here is what I have.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Grinding Out a Win

Tonight I played Gauri Menon, who is the current fifth grade champ for the USA, and has been a competitor at the World Youth.  Although my rating was 80 points higher, she is a very rapidly improving opponent, so I didn’t assume I was any stronger than her at all.

I made a strong point to play more creatively.  I made sure that I had a plan and I wasn’t afraid to press a little rather than just hold back.

All in all I felt that I played pretty well although I think that had she not exchanged the knight for the bishop at the end the win would have been unlikely.

This should get my rating back up to 1802, so all in all I’ll take it.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of The Fighting Dragon by Paul Powell

Well here it is…the last review I’m likely to be doing for a while since I’m using only QC products for a while.

For the record I was working on this one for a bit.  In fact I nearly had it completed when my site crashed and I lost everything.

So here we go…

This book which was recently released by NM Paul Powell is subtitled “How to Defeat the Yugoslav Attack” which is of course the most critical line against the Dragon.

While Fischer may have once claimed the Dragon was a bust (“sac, sac, mate” anyone?) the truth is much more complex.  The Dragon remains one of the most critical and deeply analyzed openings in chess.

It also seems to be a favorite for lower level players.  I have a few thoughts as to why that is, and I think that they are relevant for this review.

First of all, I think that the Dragon seems “easy” to play due to it’s somewhat systemic nature.  The first 10-11 moves are pretty easy to remember unlike many other openings.

Secondly, I think that the Dragon (along with most lines of the Sicilian) comes with reasonably easy to understand plans.

Those two things combine to make this opening very popular among certain groups of players.

Seizing on that opportunity, Paul and his publisher, Mongoose Press, have written a book that speaks to those players.

Let’s be perfectly clear about what this is not.  This is not a book designed to show you the latest intricacies on move 22 against the 9.0-0-0 variation of the Yugoslav.  Books like that exist and if you are a player around the Class A or above level then those books are really what you want.  But if you are not (and let’s face it, the majority of chess players are not) then this book is the book for you.

Really the book is split in to two distinct books.  “Book 1: Ideas and Patterns” and “Book 2: Quizzes.”

The first book is composed of chapters which cover a particular variation through the annotation of sample games.  Lines include 9.Bc4 Nd7; 9.0-0-0 Nxd4; 9.g4 Nxd4; 9.g4 Bxg4; 9.Bc4 Nxd4; 9.0-0-0 d5; 9…a5; 9…Qa5; 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rb8; 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Qb8; 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Qc7, and an odds and ends chapter.

There is also a very nice interlude piece where the author discusses transpositions.  I think that concept is very undercovered as relates to club level players, so it’s nice to see it here.  In some cases it’s important to know what line is likely to transpose into a different line since it helps a player feel a bit more familiar in various move orders.

NM Powell’s annotations are to my taste perfect for what he is trying to achieve.  Often they are along the lines of “White should reject this move on principle as it weakens the c3-knight” or “As we have seen in many games, the pattern of sacrificing a knight at g4 or e4 is a common theme for launching an attack.  If you embed the search for these kinds of opportunities into your DNA you’ll win some spectacular games over your chess career.”

This is not to say that the analysis shies away from variations.  It does not. In fact, when it is needed, the author goes in to some quite deep analysis to show his point.  However where possible to explanations tend to be more verbal than variational, which I believe will serve readers of this book quite well.

It’s also important to point out that with so many variations covered in a 184 page book, nothing is covered deeply.  Then again, I don’t believe it’s intended to be. As near as I can tell it’s intended to lightly cover a wide range of topics which will give the reader a nice broad background from which to grow.

The second book – quizzes – also offers up a nice selection of typical Dragon positions and tactics to help the reader understand how to unleash the latent power in this opening.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that one of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is the mention of Israel Zilber in the dedication.  If you don’t know who Zilber was then do yourself a favor and read Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin.

All in all I think that this book achieves it’s goal and should be read by anyone lower rated than Class A who plays or is thinking about playing the Dragon.  It should also be read by anyone who prefers verbal explanatory analysis regardless of what openings they play.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott