Slav’s and Pawns

A few years ago I lost a game on the White side of the Slav because my opponent won my c pawn and I went full blown panic thinking I had to win it back immediately rather than let him hold on to the pawn while I built up my position.

Since then I have learned the importance of other elements such as time and space rather than being so materially minded, which is why I can appreciate this game between Sasha Grishchuk and Lev Aronian from Bilbao 2009.

Granted, this game is in a line of the Semi-Slav, but same idea. In this position Black has temporarily won White’s c pawn.

White builds up some nice advantages, and then Black sacs an exchange – I presume since the dark squares around his king look a bit tender.

After some mutual positional pawn sacs being down the exchange proves to be a bit too much for Black and White converts a nice opportunity.

Here is the game, with annotations by the well-known attacker, Polish GM Michal Krasenkow. This comes from Chessbase Magazine issue 132.

If you’re not familiar with Krasenkow you should listen to Ben Johnson’s Perpetual Chess Podcast interview with him here. You can (and SHOULD) order Krasenkow’s recent book on his best games here.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Space Can be a Disadvantage Too

One of the things that we learn as we progress in chess is that having more space means having an advantage.

Here is an amazing example where that is not the case. In this game Lautier builds up a sizeable space advantage against the German GM Nispeanu, but at the cost of a lack of king safety.

Nipeanu coolly and calmly maneuvers his pieces into place and then smashes open the position and suddenly Lautier’s advantage becomes a wide open field for his opponents pieces to start charging through.

The annotations are from English GM Peter Wells. This game appears in Chessbase Magazine 130 from June 2009.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Two Kasparov KID Crushes

As many long time readers of mine will know, I have been a fan of the King’s Indian Defense for as long as I can remember.

I currently have a student who really enjoys the King’s Indian and so I was looking for games to show him some brutal crushes from the black side.

Of course seeing as how one of the all time greats was a serious practitioner in his day I figured I’d look up some Kasparov games.

Here are a couple of brutal win by Garry featuring classic kingside attacks.

These types of games never fail to take me back to when I was first discovering my love of top level chess in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

I hope you will enjoy them as well!

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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Beware the Ides of Zaitsev

One of the things that I have been working on lately is a much more thorough approach to my openings. While I have definitely had some growing pains, I am doing better when it comes to working harder to understand my opening repertoire.

I have been playing 1…e5 again lately and the Breyer has been my variation of choice. However, I have wanted to work on some other lines to both better increase my understanding as well as to give myself more weapons in the arsenal.

So I started looking at the Zaitsev.

Here is the main position, which arises after the move 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 

The main move here is 12.Nbd2, but it turns out that White has a drawing line if they wish to play it with 12.Ng5

Now the idea is that Black goes back with 12…Rf8 and then after 13.Nf3 Black is either left with repeating with 13…Re8 or playing 13…Nd7. In the games I was looking at the higher rated GM’s playing Black had a tendency to just go back and repeat. These were games from open tournaments where more often than not Black needs to play for a win in order to have a chance to finish well.

I’ll have to look into this more to determine why they wouldn’t play 13…Nd7. In the meantime here are two examples from May of this year.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Beware the “Obvious” Move Unless You Have a Follow Up

Sometimes in chess we have moves in our games that seem so natural that you think they are obvious. That was the feeling I got looking at this position with White to move.

The game is Mista-Giri from Doha 2014. Giri has just put his knight on a4. Right now the position is dead level. To me it looks like 29.Bxa4 is just screaming to be played. Mista plays it, and Giri recaptures:

Here the position is still dead level. But lets take a serious look at it for a second… White’s a pawn hangs and his b pawn is backward. White can fix these problems by playing 30.Bb6 Nc5 31.Qe3 and now if Black plays 31…Nb3 White starts to reposition with 32.Rg1 and gets ready to start some action on the kingside.

Another way for White to play instead of Bb6 is the more dynamic exchange sac 30.Rxa4 Bxa4 31.Rxa4

I can’t pretend to understand the theory of exchange sacs all that well, but it seems to me that with Black having no obvious pawn breaks being down the exchange shouldn’t matter all that much. Instead of either of those options Mista chose to play 30.Ng3

This hangs the a pawn, and with it eventually the game. Here is the game in it’s entirety.

The lesson from this game is that just because a move looks obvious, unless you have a plan to follow it up with. 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.

An Interesting Game Jakovenko-Harikrishna 1/2-1/2

The game Jakovenko-Harikrishna from a few days ago in Shenzhen was quite interesting to me for a couple of reasons.

Here’s one of them. In a Taimanov Sicilian this position is reached with Black to move:


Here the normal move is 8…Ne5. Instead, Harikrishna plays 8…Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bc5 10.Bxc5 Qxc5 and now after 11.Na4 Qc7 White gets a Maroczy setup with 12.c4

So this is one part of the game that I found interesting. I’m not sure what Black gets out of this, although I suppose it’s equal and that’s what Black has been trying for.

Then down the road a piece this position is reached, this time with White to move:

One of the maxims that we are taught as post beginner’s is that when you’re queen is lined up on the same file as an enemy rook it’s a good idea to move it, but here Jakovanko plays 15.Qd4

OK, so it seems to me like if Black plays 15…e5 here, then White is doing OK since Black has given himself a backwards pawn. As Black I don’t think I’d play 15…e5. But…I’m not a super GM, because what does Harikrishna play? You guessed it…he plays 15…e5

Clearly there are some strategic themes I am not understanding.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Understanding What’s Important

One of my bigger struggles is looking at a position and not understanding what the most important feature is.

It’s not necessarily that I look at the position and don’t understand the answer to that question – it’s that I often don’t even ask the question.

Take this position for instance:

The game is Aberg-Smith 2012 and it’s Black to move. Take a minute and ask yourself what the most important feature is.

I spent time trying to get the knight to the c4 square. But I never did like the idea of 17…Na3 18.Ra1 Nc4 19.Rxa7 and now Black is in a world of pain.

Then I thought about playing …f5 to try to lock down e4, but that doesn’t do much either.

Here’s the thing though…this game appears in the “no pawn break no plan” chapter of Pump  Up Your Rating by Axel Smith. So had I asked myself the question I would have noticed that Black can play 17…e5 right now to undermine White’s c pawn before it gets too dangerous, but that if Black doesn’t do so now, then White will play f4 and that’s that as far as the …e5 break goes.

So after 17…e5 White is forced to take or make serious concessions.  Then after 18.dxe5 Bxe5 White is still slightly better, but that c pawn doesn’t look nearly as scary as it did before.

I need to start adding a step where I ask myself in any position I’m analyzing “What is truly the most important feature of this position?” Hopefully if I do so I’ll get in the habit and this will simply become second nature.

Here is the entire game for anyone who is interested.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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

Too Much Garry? No Such Thing!

So I come across this position in Timman’s latest book The Longest Game about the five Kasparov-Karpov matches from 1984-1990.

Here Garry plays 13.Bf4 with Timman noting “Against Marjanovic in La Valetta 1980, Kasparov had played 13.exd5 and won convincingly.”

I was wondering about that game and so I looked it up. Wow…just wow.

The blunder happens in this position:

The threat of course is 17.Nh6+ with the discovered attack on the queen. This game is the stem game in this line, and Marjanovic chooses the worst way to deal with the threat by moving his king to h8, after which his position implodes since the knight on c3 is able to come into the attack via e4 with tempo since the queen is unguarded on d7.

An interesting factoid here is that this game also seems to be a possible example of who was staying current in chess literature at the time and who wasn’t due to the very next game in this line, which took place the following year in Buenos Aires between Argentinian IM Raimundo Garcia and Columbian Augusto Pereira.  I can find ratings in the high 2200’s for Pereira so it seems likely he was close to FM strength although he never got the title.

The two games are the same through White’s 19th move:

Here Pereira deviated with 19…Qc5 rather than 19…Qf6. No matter, he still lost quickly.

The reason for my comment about staying current in literature is that back in these days there were no databases and it could be hard to find recent games. Those players who were better at it often had an advantage over those who weren’t.

The Kasparov game had been published in Informant 30, but unless players took the time to truly read and digest the Informants they would often be at the mercy of their better prepared opponents.

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.

Modern Advantages

Currently I’m reading Jan Timman’s latest book The Longest Game in preparation for a review.

I’ve long spoken about certain modern advantages about buying books that exist today, but didn’t 30 years ago when I first was playing in tournaments. Chief among them the fact that back in the late 80’s you’d see a book title in a catalog, and maybe a two-line description and that’s what you needed to use to decide whether or not to buy something.

These days you can go online and read excerpts along with finding numerous reviews, etc. This is why it’s generally agreed that we’re in a Golden Age for chess books.

However, there’s a huge advantage these days in the reading of chess books which I’d like to talk about a little today.

30 years ago books were the primary source of learning and improvement. Today they are just the springboard.

Let’s take a look at this position from the second game of the first K-K match.

Here Kasparov plays 8.Nh4 about which Timman says “The critical move, which had been introduced into practice by Polugaevsky in 1980. Before that, 8.Nd4 had been the usual move. However, in that case, Black can return the pawn by 8…Nc6 (Korchnoi’s 8…Bc6 is also possible, intending 9.Nxc6 dxc6) 9.cxd5 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 c5 11.Qd2 d6 with a playable Benoni position.”

This is the final position from that note above:

I sat there looking at that and asking myself “But why 11.Qd2 in that position?  Why block in the c1 bishop like that?” And that takes us to the point I want to make today.

Back in the times in which this game was played, when a club player would see a note like that from a GM commentating on a game it didn’t matter if we understood it or not. If you couldn’t reason out the idea behind the move then you just had to move on. You were also limited to the idea fed to you by the annotator of the game. Whatever they decided to mention as alternatives is what you got to look at. The end.

These days we’re not so hampered.  I simply opened ChessBase and put in the moves to take us to this position before 11.Qd2

Here I’m able to do a number of things. First, I run Stockfish 10 which tells me after a depth of 36 that 11.Qd2 is 0.64, 11.Qd3 is 0.60, and 11.Qd1 is 0.60.  OK, so this shows that there’s nothing inherently wrong with putting the queen on d2. My instinct of “but the bishop” is a knee jerk one, but in this day and age I can learn why.

So I go to the reference tab in my database. I can see that in the 8.5 million games in my database this position was reached 19 times and that there have been four moves played. 11.Qd3 has been played twelve times (last played in 1980), 11.Qd2 five times (last played in 1980), and 11.dxc6 (in 1978) and 11.Qd1 (in 1966) once each.

So now we can look at the games in the 11.Qd2 line. Of the five, four are GM games with one taking place between amateurs. If we disregard the amateur game and look at the four games we see that interestingly, Yuri Balashov was white in three of them, with the aforementioned Korchnoi having white in the other game. The players of the black bits were Timman, Inkiov, Furman, and Karpov.

Since Timman mentions Korchnoi, and since it’s the stem game,  let’s look at that game first.

Now let’s look at the four Balashov Whites in chronological order:

So in looking through those games it becomes easy to see that the idea for White was simply to play b3 and then develop the bishop that way. Therefore the queen being on d2 was not a detriment at all.

It’s also interesting to see that Korchnoi’s plan of b3-a4-Rb1-Ba3-b4 was determined to be inferior by Balashov who then developed the bishop to b2 instead. The engine agrees with the analysis as well.

I’m often amused at the view espoused by some that books are somehow outdated due to the fact that we have so many technological tools at our disposal. To me, books are enhanced rather than downgraded by these advances of the modern age.

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.

Crush by Petrosian

Earlier today I saw my friend Elshan ask on Facebook for games with Tigran Petrosian on the White side of the King’s Indian. GM Jacob Aagaard just posted “Qh8+” as a response.

That sent me on a mission, and this is where I wound up…the final position from Petrosian – Spassky in Game 10 of the 1966 World Championship.

Here is the entire game. Thank you Elshan and Jacob for getting me to look for this!

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.