Which Pawn to Take With?

Every so often I’ll come across a position which shows me how much my chess understanding has changed over the years.

Today I was looking at this one:

The game is Vishnu-Adly from the first round of the 2017 Sharjah Masters. White has just captured Black’s knight on d5, so barring any useful intermezzo’s, which don’t exist in this position, Black needs to figure out which pawn to recapture with.

I spent only a few seconds here, and my decision was that the pawn it made the most sense to capture with was the e pawn. The reason that I can tell that my thought process is changing is that a couple of years ago it would have gone like this:

“If I capture with the e pawn I’ll have a backward pawn on c6 along with three pawn islands. But if I capture with the c pawn then I’ll only have two pawn islands and I’ll have a protected passed pawn in the center!” Then, after maybe 15 seconds I’d have made up my mind and any additional time spent calculating would just be used to tell myself I was right.

Now I looked at this position and my thoughts go something like: “I can capture with the c pawn and I’ll avoid having a backward pawn on c6 that’s likely to come under fire from my opponents bishops, but I’ll also be giving up the b5 square. White could play the tempo move Bb5+ and since I can’t go to e7 and block my bishop in I’d have to move to d8 and my king is awfully loose. Not to mention the fact that I’d just be giving my opponent a queenside pawn majority for free. I’ll just live with the potentially weak pawn on c6 rather than the long term consequences of taking with the c pawn. Besides, now I’ll have that queenside pawn majority.”

Both the game continuation and the engine show me to be correct. The top three moves for Black are:

  1. 13…exd5 (0.00) for all the reasons I stated above and perhaps some that stronger players can point out that I missed
  2. 13…Bg4+ (1.44) which just drops a pawn after 14.f3 exd5 15.Bxd5 cxd5 16.fxg4 – think about this for a second…the second best move in the position hangs a pawn!
  3. 13…cxd5 (3.37) which dooms Black after 14.Bb5+ Kd8 15.Rhc1 and now White will simply control the c file, and along with the lead in development have a massive advantage.

Here’s the final position from option three above:

Black won’t be able to keep the White rook from getting to the c file so he can double. This is the kind of game where you have to suffer for hours until you lose, and yet only a couple of years ago I’d have cheerfully entered it and never understood what went wrong.

Here is the full game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Wainscott-Beckwith 1-0

Last Thursday at the club I played a game which went exactly the way you would expect, but that has some interesting ideas nonetheless.

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Hogg – Wainscott 0-1

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Chess Punks Unite! Wainscott – Williams 1-0

Last night at the club I played seven time WI state champion Bill Williams.  Prior to this game my record against Bill in classical games was one win, two draws, and 12 losses.

While overall I am not satisfied with my play over the past several months, the one area where I think I’ve been performing at a high level is tactics.

This game was no exception since I spotted the genesis of an idea in this position.  See if you can see it.  Keep in mind that this is not a puzzle since the idea can’t be brought to fruition yet.  It requires help by the opponent.

Here is the game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Hard Fought Draw – Wainscott – Becker

Last night I played Allen Becker.  Early on I sacked a pawn for what I thought was plenty of comp, but was clearly not.

However, I managed to fight back and hold the draw.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Stick to the Plan!

Something that has long been a problem of mine is the sometimes habit of starting to fulfill a plan, then breaking off midway through and abandoning it for no good reason.

Here’s a perfect example of that.

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Blunderfest Blitz Game

It’s 7:32am as I start to type this.  I’ve been awake a bit over three hours for some unknown reason, and the two Red Bulls aren’t working.

So what should I do?  Play blitz of course!

So I played a game on lichess which was a festival of blunders by both sides.  Here are the highlights.

Here my opponent has just played 21.Qh5.  Clearly he’s hoping to mate me, but the e pawn is also hanging.  However, I decide to defend the mate threat first with 21…h6 when 21…Qe7 saves the e pawn and I can still  stop any mate threats my opponent tries to make.

However, instead of taking the e pawn they play 22.Rg3.  Uh oh…my h pawn is hanging to a tactic.

So I play 22…Kh8 instead of 22…Qd6 which saves the e pawn and the h pawn.

A few moves later this position is reached.

My opponent misses the simple 26.Nxd4, which wins a pawn.

As you can see by the complete game here, those weren’t the only blunders.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Wainscott 1 – Platnick 0

Today I played two G/60 games in Evanston.  The first, which is below, was against a kid rated 1808.  However, he quickly went astray as you will see.  I decided to grab a pawn to see if he would crack, and he immediately gave up a piece.  So yes, he cracked.

Once he blundered the piece I stopped annotating since the rest was uninteresting.

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Look Deeper!

Sometimes when you first look at a position you have a candidate move that you would like to play, but it doesn’t appear that it works, so you simply dismiss it.

Here’s a great example of such a position from a game of mine five years ago.

It’s black to move, and I really wanted to play 12…a4 here.  But it looks like it just hangs to the knight, right?

I looked at 12…a4 13.Nxa4

Here of course I can sack the exchange, but I didn’t see a follow up.  Yes, I can win the c pawn with something like 13…Bxc4 14.Bxc4 Nxc4

Without a doubt I’m a bit better here, but the attack is gone.  It didn’t seem like enough so I just tossed 12…a4 aside.

What I should have done was look deeper.  After all, there are other ways of undermining White’s pawn structure which don’t require me to sack the exchange at all.

Had I looked deeper, perhaps I’d have found the following:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Missed Opportunity (Pokorski-Wainscott 1/2-1/2)

One area in which I have long struggled in chess is strategy.  Specifically as relates to planning.

I do feel like I have made some slight improvements in this area, but it’s not nearly enough.

This was evident in the following game.  I was never in any danger, but the one real missed opportunity in this game was by me.  I could have played 20…c4

So, at the end of the day I can see the next area I’ll need to focus a lot 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.