Don’t Ignore the Center Larsen – Spassky 0-1

When they think of Bent Larsen, most American’s probably think “Isn’t he that guy who lost to Fischer 6-0?”

However, there is a lot more to Bent than that footnote would suggest.  He was clearly the second best player in the West for many years behind only Fischer.

In fact, in 1970 during the first “USSR vs The Rest of the World” match, the captain of the World Team, former world champion Max Euwe, had decided that he would use Elo ratings to determine board order.

Bent Larsen would not accept this as Fischer had been inactive for some time at this point and he himself had had several successes leading up to this event.

In a gesture that surprised many, Fischer agreed and stepped down to play Tigran Petrosian on Board Two while Larsen faced world champion Boris Spassky on Board One.

After a draw in their first game, Larsen sat down to the board for Game Two and promptly committed a cardinal sin in the chess world by completely ignoring the center in the second game. This allowed Spassky to create the following miniature.

Take this as a lesson…ignore the center at your own peril!

And yes, these days the Nimzo-Larsen attack (1.b3 or 1.Nf3 2.b3) is often used by strong players, but these days the theory and understanding are quite far advanced compared to where they were when Bent was pioneering this setup.

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.

Positional Chess Books by Sakaev & Landa

For those of you who may not be familiar with these books, let me start by telling you that they are very well done.

They’re far different than most books I’ve seen on positional chess. One of the main reasons for this is that rather than breaking the material up into the expected chapters of open files, outposts, strong squares, etc. the two volumes are split with Volume One covering openings and middlegames, and Volume Two focusing on structures and dynamics. Yes, dynamics. After all, as Botvinnik noted, “tactics are the servant of strategy.” Which is a way of saying that positional play is often aimed at gaining a large enough advantage to crash through tactically.

This post is not a review. If you would like to see my review of Volume Two of this set you may click here.

If you would like to read a review from several years ago on my original blog about a Shirov DVD showing how tactics crown positional advantages, then click here.

So if this post is not a review, then what is it?  I’d say it’s a call to action. You should purchase these books if you enjoy well presented material.

For instance, in Chapter One of Volume One the theme is “A Lead in Development.” There are five well annotated games which are shown first. I present – without annotation since that would take forever to copy from the book – four of those five. The fifth is a training game of Sakaev’s and so is not in my database.

Tal – Uhlmann 1971

Tal – Toran 1961

Tal – Petrosian 1974

Seirawan – Karpov 1982

In this game Yasser fell behind in development and Karpov steamrolled him.

Then at the end of the chapter there is a section on “additional material” which simply lists a handful of games for the reader to analyze and review on their own.  Those games are:

Keres – Botvinnik 1941

Svidler – Dreev 1997

Kasparov – Polugaevsky 1978

Karpov – Karpov 1993

So when all is said and done you’ve have five games with detailed annotations and another four to review on your own.

I really enjoy books like this with that added element of “go do more work on your own” to them. Almost as much as I love the Soviet School of Chess.

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.

Very Nice Exchange Sac

I was looking at this game earlier between Yair Kraidman (whom I have never heard of) and Heikki Westerinen (whom of course I have heard of) and this is the position after White’s 16th move 16.Bb5

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great with understanding the majority of the exchange sacrifices I see.  In this case I took a lot of time trying to puzzle it out, and as near as I can figure out the key here is the position after 22…Rxb2.  I think that must be the position that Westerinen saw when he went for it.

Of course I have no real idea, but if a strong player wants to throw me a bone here and let me know if I’m on the right track that would be awesome.

Here is the complete game:

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.

Timman Crashes Through

These days Jan Timman is mostly know as an author of many fine chess books.  However, if you, like me, were a chess fan in the 80’s then you recall that Jan Timman was widely considered to be one of the best players in the West for a decade or so.

While he never got a shot at the world title he certainly made his mark.  Here he is in a game against “N. Davis” from 1966 featuring a sparkling attack from the White side of the Saemisch King’s Indian.

Let’s take a look at this position after White’s move 19.f4

Here Black should drop the knight onto the d3 square with 19…Nd3.  If White exchanges off the knight then Black winds up better.  For example 20.Bxd3 cxd3 21.Qxd3 Rxb4 22.Rxa6 Rxa6 24.Nxe4 Rxe4 25.Qd3 Re8

Here White should be able to hold a draw, but Black will be able to torture him for some time with the two bishops.

Instead, Black plays 19…Neg4

Timman now starts a blistering attack with 20.Bd4

Here is the complete game:

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.

World Class Players Also Miss Simple Tactics

Here a legend of the game manages to miss a simple tactic which causes and immediate loss.

The game was between Wolfgang Uhlmann and Viktor Korchnoi. There may have been time pressure involved, but still…

Here’s the position:

Here Viktor plays 31…Bf7?? and after 32.Bxh7+ he resigns on the spot.

Here is the entire game:

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.

One Game, Two Gems Shamkovich-Stein 1959 1/2-1/2

I was just looking at some games and I came across two nice defensive tactics from Soviet Legend Leonid Stein.

Here’s the first position:

Here Stein plays 51…Rxb4. Shamkovich replies 52.Ra7+, because after 52.Rxb4 Nd3+ 53.Kf5 Nxb4 the position is a draw.  I’ll leave it to you to work out the lines. Trust me, that’s a rewarding exercise.

A few moves later this position is reached:

Here the knowledge of basic endings comes in extremely handy as 60…Nxe6 wins a crucial pawn.  If White were to play 61.dxe6 then a Philidor position is on the board and Stein simply checks with his rook until the handshake.

Here is the entire game.  It’s long, but it’s quite instructive, especially in the endgame.

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.

Son of Sorrow Indeed! Akobian-Lie 1-0

So I was reading through a bit of an older book on Benoni structures and it got me looking at some games.

For those who aren’t aware, Benoni means “Son of Sorrow” in Hebrew. I believe it’s typically spelled Ben-oni when used in that context though I can’t claim my knowledge of Jewish names or traditions is useful enough to know if I am correct.  Perhaps someone will care to educate me in the comments?

In any case, I was curious to see some modern games in the Modern Benoni.  However, as it turns out, the opening is rarely played at the 2500+ level these days.

I did, however, find this game that Var played the White side of in the PRO Chess League during its inaugural season.

I don’t know much about the Benoni, but I do know that Black should always take decisions involving exchanging off the d  pawn very seriously.

Here’s a position where it’s Black to move:

Black, already in an unpleasant position, plays 20…dxe5 and is suddenly struggling mightily after 21.Nxe5 Bxe5 22.Rxe5 Qf6 23.Rae1 Nd6

Now this is one of those positions that I find to be quite interesting because the engine will tell you that there are a few moves better than 24.b3.  Not just slightly better, but +3 better.

However, Var calmly plays 24.b3 here, which appears designed to keep the knight off c4.

Now after 24…Nf5 25.Bg5 Qd6 this position is reached:

Var then crashes through with the very nice 26.Rxf5 gxf5 27.Be7 Qg6

And now the coup-de-grace is 28.d6 rather than just picking the exchange back up. Though playing 28.Bxf8 is also totally winning. In this position Black resigned.

Here is the entire game, which is quite nice.

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.

What An Amazing Resource!

I was just looking at a game between David Anton Guijarro and Jonathan Hawkins from the 4NCL in 2017.

The Hawk has been in a bit of trouble, but has clawed his way out to reach this position:

Here he moves 23…Ne3

White replies with 24.Bxe3 and the game continues, but he missed a really interesting shot.

24.Rxf4 Nxd1 25.Rxf8+ Rxf8 26.Bd4

You can see that the Black knight appears to be a goner.

26…Qh3 27.a3 Qf1 28.Qxf1 Rxf1 29.Kc2

And now Black has nothing better to do that play 29…Nxb2 30.Kxb2 Rf7

Here Black would suffer and be ground down.

In this position:

Black can “save” the knight with 29…Nf2, but now the knight interferes with the rook making it back and White’s pawns are even deadlier after 30.Nxa7 Ne4 31.c6 Rf7 32.b4

There’s no way to stop White from just rolling down the board.

Here is the entire game:

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.

Caissa Giveth, and Caissa Taketh Away

One of the many fascinating aspects of chess is that even top players get it very wrong quite often.

Take this position for instance:

The game is Karjakin-Topalov from the 2017 Gashimov Memorial (i.e. Shamkir)

Here it’s Black to move, and to me it seems clear that White has a staggering lead in development, and would love to put a rooks on the open files.

Black then plays 14…Bd7, which seems to just encourage the pin after 15.Rd1 (leaving the other rook to come to the c file or double on the d file depending on the situation. In fact, Stockfish gives this an advantage of 1.31 for White.

Instead, Sergey plays 15.Qg4 and after 15…Bc6 16.Rad1 Qc7 Black has made some progress and White’s advantage is much less than only a few moves earlier as Black is much closer to completing development.

Note that White’s not actually threatening the g pawn since after 17.Qxg7 Rg8 18.Qf6 (18.Qxh7 loses the knight on f3 after 18…Bxf3 since the g pawn is pinned) 18…Nf5 19.Ng5 h6 White is in trouble.

Now back to the game position of:

Here White plays 17.Ng5 and Black immediately goes wrong by accepting the pawn sac with 17…Qxe5.

This is a good training position. Ask yourself how White can gain a big advantage here.

Here is the complete game:

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.

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

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.