Slow Down! Don’t Rush.

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If you’ve studied chess seriously for any length of time you may very have heard the phrase “Don’t rush.” Typically this applies to endgames, but really it should apply to just about any phase of the game.

Let’s take this position. It from some analysis of the game Tal – Roman 1961

This is from the the first book of the two-volume set The Complete Manual of Positional Chess by Sakaev and Landa. The authors give a line that shows how White wins after Black takes the knight with 13…axb5. But what if Black plays 13…Qxf3 – what then?

The book gives no analysis, and one of the things that I have been really pressing myself to do lately is to answer questions like this rather than just let them go. I have spent most of my chess book reading time just kind of shuffling pieces and not really thinking. I’ve been working to change that lately.

So let’s look at that position with 13…Qxf3 played:

Obviously White can’t simply recapture the queen as after 14.gxf3 Black simply wins a piece by taking the knight. I’ll leave it to you to work out why neither 15.Nxb5 nor 15.Bxb5+ work.

So that told me that surely 14.Nc7+ should be the move. I analyzed for a bit and came up with 14…Ke7 15.Bd6+ Kd8

The problem here of course if that after taking the queen the bishop on d6 falls. Something like 16.gxf3 Bxd6 17.Nxa8 Ke7

Hmm…just looks even. Surely the authors of this book didn’t miss such an obvious try as 13…Qxf3 did they?

I tried other moves and just couldn’t crack it. So finally I put it in an engine. Once I did so I once again heard “don’t rush” playing in my head.

The correct sequence is 14.Nc7+ Ke7, and now, instead of rushing with 15.Bd6+ simply recapture the queen now with 15.gxf3

The rook on a8 is hanging and if the rook moves then either of the two following lines happen. 15…Rb8 16.Bd6+ Kd8 17.Bxf8+ Kxc7 18.Bd6+ and the rook is lost.

15…Ra7 16.Bd6+ Kd7 17.Bxf8+ Kxc7 18.Bxg7 Rg8 19.Bxf6

While I wish I would have found the idea prior to using the engine, I am glad that I spent a few minutes checking. The work will pay off.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Strategic Decision Making

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I just received the new book on Petrosian from Ilan Rubin’s excellent Elk & Ruby publishing house.

The book is called Petrosian Year by Year and this is the first volume, covering the years 1942-1962. The authors are Tibor Karolyi and Tigran Gyozalyan.

The first game within the book is a simul game between Petrosian and Flohr. For some reason which is not given in the book (though the authors do also question this) Petrosian has the White pieces.

This position has arisen after the Black’s 15th move, 15…Bd7 which the authors called a mistake.

So I took a look here, trying to figure out what is wrong with the move. I started by first evaluating the position. This was my evaluation process:

White should be better here. He has more space and the more active pieces. He does have a worse pawn structure though. Here, Tigran Vartanovich plays 16.Rhe1 which the authors call a mistake. So I set the book down to try to figure out why.

The problem is that I did what I almost always do in these positions – I thought tactically. I searched and searched but couldn’t figure out any sort of shot that White missed.

The answer shows a deficiency in my thinking process. The answer is as follows:

“This move keeps some advantage, but it’s not the best a it allows Black to castle. If 16.Bg5! Qf7 17.Rhe1+ Kf8 18.Nh4 White wins as the h8 rook will be out of play.”

This, by the way, is an example of the excellent type of verbal/variational analysis which the book looks to contain.

I need to really revamp my thought process. I am training, but I need to train harder. Once OTB is back I’m going to make a real run at 1900 as the first logical step on the rest of my journey.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Missed a Shot Here

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I just finished playing in an online tournament hosted by my friend GM Elshan Moradiabadi, and in round one I had this position with Black (me) to move.

Here I saw that I was going to have a fork on d3 after exchanging twice on h3, so as a result I missed the crushing 22…Rf2. White can’t save the queen with a move such as 23.Qg1 as that allows a mate in one with 23…Nd3#

Therefore White would have to trade the queen for the rook.

Ah well. I did win the game after playing horribly early on. In fact, I played poorly all tournament long, but still won all four of my games and took third.

Here is the entire game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Opening Blunder

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Believe it or not I’ve actually been working extremely hard on my openings. Mostly as Black, however.

So yesterday in an online rapid tournament organized by my friend GM Elshan Moradiabadi I found myself navigating through the opening by playing on autopilot.

In doing so we reached this position. Black to move and win a piece. I saw it instantly after my move and was just waiting to hit resign. Luckily my opponent didn’t see it.

My opponent was also playing on autopilot and so just played the automatic looking 7…Bb4

However, Black can win a piece with the simple 7…d4. If White moves the knight away then Black plays 8…Bb4 winning the queen.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Solid Planning Topalov-Sasikiran 1-0

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Here is an example in modern GM praxis where a long term plan presents itself. Granted, when the opportunity arises, Topalov turns the game into a bloodbath, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was running with a long term plan out of the gate.

Let’s look at this position first:

White has a nice space advantage and a target on c7. Black has counterplay only on the kingside. So what move would you play as White here?

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If you chose 15.Ba3 then congrats, you’re on the same track as Topalov was! The idea is to simply exchange off Black’s useful bishop on d6 for White’s worst placed piece. This is an example in using Aagaard’s three questions. Here all three questions sort of combine into one as White will be increasing Black’s weakness (question one) while interfering with Black’s plan of kingside counterplay (question two) while improving his worst placed piece by trading it (question three.)

Now after 15…Rc8 16.Bxd6 Black choses to recapture with 16…cxd6 as it’s really a “six of one, half a dozen of the other” type of position. Black’s options are to either create a permanently weak target on c7 by playing 16…Rxd6 or to play the move he did which will come with long term structural weaknesses of its own.

This takes us here:

Here is where Topalov says his plan is to exchange off the rooks, then put pressure on the d5 pawn with his light squared bishop and knights. Eventually on move 32 he sacs a knight to cause havoc in Sasikiran’s time pressure, but that’s just vintage Topalov at work.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Nice Way to Open the Center

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I was looking at this game from the 10th Soviet Championship and this position was reached between Makagonov and Kasparian with White to move.

It’s White to move, and in a position like this where Black seems determined to close down all the pawn breaks White needs to be active. Here, Makagonov finds a nice way to open the center and get his pieces active.

He plays 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17.d6!

With this he is able to gain activity and break through.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Danger Was All in My Mind

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Sometimes we play a game and we think we’re getting crushed, then when we look at it later it turns out that there was never a “there there” for our opponent.

Here is one such game which I played in round four of the USATN in February.

First, my notes that I made directly after the game:

  • Don’t get rattled when your opponent is overusing time.
  • Pay attention to king safety.
  • Opposite colored bishops are great with initiative.
  • When you overlook a move, don’t panic.

Now,  here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Two GM’s, Three Blunders

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So I come across this position in a game between Christiansen and Oparin from the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup. Here it’s White to move.

White plays 65.Bc6 and I start trying to figure out why not just 65.Bxh3…what did I miss?! But of course there is nothing. After this move there is no way for Black to stop White from sacking the bishop for the remaining pawn, so the game is just drawn.

After 65.Bc6 we have this position:

Here 65…g4 wins, but Black plays 65…h2, which also wins. It seems to be a matter of just picking the win you want to play.

Then, after 66.Kd3 Black can still simply play …g4 and win, but instead he plays 66…Kg1 and White responds 67.Bd7, after which Black finally plays …g4 and goes on to promote, but winds up flagging and drawing.

But I kept coming back to the position after 66…Kg1. Something just didn’t look right.

After some experimenting I hit on the idea of 67.Ke3, and now White just has to shuffle the bishop back and forth to hold the draw. If Black promotes the h pawn White stops and wins the g pawn, and if Black pushes the g pawn then White will win it with Kf4. The engine seems to confirm this although I’m sure there are ways for Black to try some subtle tricks.

Granted, this was in a blitz endgame, but I would still think that taking on h3 would have been automatic!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Ceci N’est Pas une Lune

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Many of you will hopefully be familiar with the Star Wars reference above.

In this case my opponent thought in a blitz game just now that he was trading pawns. Here’s the position a couple of moves prior:

Of course trading my a pawn for his c pawn does leave me with a passed pawn, so already I’m happy.

After 17.Bxc6 Bxa2 I now play 18.Ba4 to keep my opponents bishop off of b3. The problem with the bishop making it to b3 is that it controls d1 and therefore forces me to give up the d file.

My opponent here mistakenly plays 18…Bb3 anyway which loses a piece after 19.Bxb3.

My opponent seems to think it’s just a trade and so first exchanges rooks with 19…Rxd1 20.Rxd1 Rxb3

But of course I now play 21.Rd8+ Bf8 22.Bh6 and there’s no escaping the mate.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Two More Fun Attacking Games

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One of the nice things about learning openings by paying through games is that you get to see some amazing games you would never have otherwise looked at.

Here are two more fun attacking games from this morning. Enjoy!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott