Don’t Be Too Dogmatic

Here is a position from a blitz game I just played.  After all the grief yesterday about cramped positions, here I decide to be overly dogmatic.

My opponent has just played 15.Ng5 and I never really gave serious consideration to taking the knight.

Why?  Because somewhere in the back of my mind it’s ingrained that when you have the bishop pair you should keep it.

Yet if I just take, playing 15…Bxg5 16.fxg5 Nf7 then my position is fine.

As beginners we learn all these “rules” about chess.  Strong players know when to ignore those rules.

Time to get back to work!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Even Blitz Games Are Important

One thing I was told a long time ago is that it’s important to even review your blitz games.  To at least look at them quickly with an engine to see where the huge swings are and then to analyze those swings.

The idea is to figure out what you saw and what you missed and how you properly or improperly evaluated certain positions.

Immediately after playing this game my impression was that I won quite easily with a devastating attack.  I sacked some material and then quickly overwhelmed my opponent on the kingside.

But then I pulled up the pgn to take a quick look at it with an engine and the truth is that I completely misplayed this game.

Interestingly this is the same theme that just caused me to have such as terribly tournament.  I rushed rather than building up small advantages.

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.

Heartbreaking Loss

With the US Championships getting up to full speed I was watching some of the games today.  One that I was keeping an eye on was between the up and coming Jennifer Yu and the defending US Women’s Champion Sabina Foiser.

It had been a fairly level game all day, and this position was reached

It’s Black to move.  With Black’s king where it is, the ideal plan would be to exchange pawns and then Black should be able to hold quite easily.

But it’s not easy to exchange pawns.  And of course it looks like White can put her king on h4 and then how can Black save the pawn?  With two connected passed pawns the win becomes trivial for White.

So here Sabina played 53…h4+?? and was lost after 54.Kh3.

However, in the original position Black can play 53…Rb1, and now if White tries to win the h pawn with 54.Kh4 Black simply plays 54…Rh1+ 55.Kg3 Rf1 and that should be enough to hold.

Chess is brutal sometimes.  Caissa giveth, and Caissa taketh away.

Here’s hoping that Sabina rebounds tomorrow.

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.

Your Opponent Has a Plan Too

This topic came up in a discussion yesterday after the Hales Corners Challenge XXVII tournament.  We were cleaning up, and a friend of mine who hovers around 1900 said this was something that he struggles with.

We talked about the three questions for a bit and how to develop the habit of always asking those questions.

For those who don’t know, the three questions are part of Jacob Aagaard’s training method and our outlined in his book Grandmaster Preperation: Positional Play.  They are as follows:

  1. What are the weaknesses?
  2. What is your worst placed piece?
  3. What is your opponent’s idea?

Now of course you need to also extrapolate additional info from those questions.  For instance, when you are looking for the weaknesses in the position you should be looking for both your own and your opponents.  When you look at your worst placed piece you should also look to see what your opponents is as well.

We talked about how one of the better methods for ingraining the three questions is to analyze games and just openly ask yourself the three questions on every move.  Within a quite short period of time the questions will simply become second nature.  I plan on doing this myself since I know that while I have gotten better at this, it’s still not an intrinsic part of my thought process.

So this morning I decide to go through more Petrosian games and lo and behold what do I see but an example of question three right away.

Tigran is playing Black against the Argentinian GM Pilnik in this position.  It is White to move.

Here Pilnik plays 17.Bd3

At first this struck me as odd since Petrosian wants to put the knight on d6 and chase the knight from b5 in order to reduce White’s play on the queenside which will allow him to better exploit his strong center as well as having the semi open b file from which to potentially attack the white b pawn in the future.

But then after 17…Nd6 18.Qe2 I realized that 17.Bd3 was an example of question three since after 18.Qe2 the knight doesn’t have to move since there is no more threat for Black to win a pawn if White doesn’t move the knight.

The three questions in action.

If you would like to see the entire game, here you are:

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.

Terrible Game, But Nice Finish

Here is the first game in the Speedy Gonzalez Action Swiss, which I won last night at the Southwest Chess Club.

Please note that the ratings shown are Quick Ratings.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

(all donations go towards lessons)