Losing the Thread – We’ve All Been There

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Imagine you are White in the above game. You’re up a piece for a pawn. You just need to convert this won game and you’ll add a full point to your score. What could be better?

So why not just play 52.Bc2 and threaten to win a pawn to go up a full piece? Yep, that’s what you do. You see your opponent’s eyes light up. Oh no, what have you missed?

Your opponent plays 52…h4, and now after 53.Bxe4 hxg3 54.fxg3 Kg4 you realize your mistake.

If White saves the bishop, Black will win White’s last pawn, and the game is a theoretical draw of R+B vs R.

I honestly don’t know why White didn’t go into that and at least try for the win.

Here is the complete game, which is wonderfully rich and complex.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Which Recapture?

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Here’s an interesting position. White has just played 21.Rxd8

Take a minute and ask yourself which way you would recapture as Black. 21…Rxd8, or 21…Kxd8 and why.

To me, the instant answer was 21…Rxd8. I didn’t even give it any thought.  Somewhere in the back of my mind some trope about taking the open d file was probably rumbling around.

Yet in the game, Mitrabha recaptured with the King, playing 21…Kxd8. After a moment’s thought I realized that this makes perfect sense since White has a queenside pawn majority and so Black would want his king on that side of the board.

Out of curiosity I checked with the engine. 21…Kxd8 is equal. 21…Rxd8 is +1.2 for White.

There should be no “automatic” recaptures without thinking.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Excellent Conversion at the U18 World Youth

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I’ve been trying to do a better job of following more live events and recent games. I’ve not always done a great job with the total immersion concept, but I’m making a push to be better at it now. I need to see more games in a setting that forces me to draw my own conclusions about them rather than just read someone’s publish analysis.

One thing I’ve started to do is to play through every game in TWIC between two players of at least 2400 strength in the Caro-Kann and the Slav since those are openings that I play.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is following more live events. So a bit ago I opened up Follow Chess and I clicked on the U18 Open section of the World Youth and I saw this position.

Many times we are taught that opposite-colored bishops are usually a draw. Yet immediately this struck me as a position where White could easily convert. White did so, putting on a nice demonstration of technique. Yes, there was nothing overly difficult about this, yet it still serves as a nice example of a technical conversion.

Here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Targets: Taimanov – Bronstein 1953

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In reading Enqvist’s book 300 Most Important Chess Positions I came across this one from Zurich 53.

I want you to stop for a moment and take a look at the position. It’s Black to move, and you are Black, so what would you play?

If you are like me, you are tempted by 18…Rxa2, which wins back your pawn. Ah…the security-blanket-feeling of material equality! If you are like Bronstein, you realize that after 19.Rxa2 Rxa2 20.e5 Black will have no targets on the queenside, while White’s attacking chances in the center are very real.

On the other hand, if you are like Bronstein, you realize that after 18…Bxc3 19.bxc3 you have some tasty targets with the a and c pawns.

Here is the game. Go find your inner Bronstein!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Training Update – Finished Kotov

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As mentioned in previous posts, one of my main training goals this year is to finish four books, one of which was The Science of Strategy by Kotov.

I am happy to report that I finished it. With the material I have remaining in Chess Strategy for Club Players by Grooten, What it Takes to Become a Chess Master by Soltis, and 300 Most Important Chess Positions by Enqvist I need to average a bit over five pages a day for the remainder of 2022.

One thing I did which helped with Kotov is I broke it down near the beginning of July to determine what I would need to get through in order to finish the book by the end of the month. The plan is now to do that with the rest of the books.

For instance, in order to finish Grooten by the end of September I need to finish a bit over five pages per day. This is doable but will take the same type of sustained effort I just put into Kotov.

So that’s the plan. Grooten by the end of September, then Enqvist by the end of November, then Soltis by the end of the year.

So what effects have I seen? I feel that I can 100% tell a difference in my positional understanding of the game. I see themes much better than I ever have, and it manifests itself in a position like this one from one of my recent games.

Here I play 24…Rh3. Sure, there are some tactical ideas with this move, but really the idea is to keep White from playing h4, along with making it hard for White to get his pieces and king unbound.

I do not give sole credit for this to reading books. Just as important is the fact that I’ve been working with GM Elshan Moradiabadi, and those lessons are helping me interpret other material better than I have in the past.

Something I have learned along the way this year is that training is no one thing. You don’t sit down, make some grand plan, and then that’s “THE” thing that will move you along. Instead, you make plans, but you remain flexible. Most of all, you just trust the process.

I see a lot of talk on Chess Twitter from those who are frustrated that they are not seeing more immediate results from their training, and I get it. I’ve been there. That’s been me. Now, however, I keep reminding myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. That nothing worthwhile comes easy, even if it looks that way to others.

So where do we go from here? Well, my rating is 1799 right now. Depending on what happens in my upcoming game on Thursday I’ll either stay around this rating, or drop somewhere between 15-30 Elo. That’s OK. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The fact will remain that I’ve had some great rating gains in the past year.

The goal for this year is to finish over 1800. Then next year we will work on surpassing the all-time peak of 1896.

I can do this as long as I continue to remind myself to trust in the process and to stay focused.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Chicago Class Recap

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I just got home from the Chicago Class, and overall I can say I am happy I attended the tournament. I don’t typically play in CCA events for reasons that aren’t that important to discuss here.

This was only my second one ever, and I have to say that I am glad that I went. The real idea here was to see my friends Ryan Murphy and Elshan Moradiabaddi. So on that front the event was a rousing success.

As for the tournament itself, there is definite room for improvement in my games, but I am satisfied with the overall results. All three games were draws, but with me giving up a significant rating differential.

I took a bye in round two to run one of my online events which I do for the company that Ryan and I own, the IAC. I also didn’t play the final round as I am exhausted and also have to work tomorrow until 9pm, so I decided to make the drive home and chill a bit.

So here are my games from rounds one, three, and four.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Mid-Year Training Update

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Now that we’re at the halfway point of 2022 it’s time for an update on how the training has been going.

At the beginning of the year I made the following “resolutions” in a blog post:

So here are my resolutions for 2022, which just so happens to be one calendar year.

  1. Annotate and publish those annotations to every classical game I play. This will include me taking a few minutes immediately after every game to jot down a few notes about what I was feeling/thinking, as well as trying to capture the lines I calculated at the board. Yes, I will engine check this analysis, but I will do it by hand prior and will note when there was something critical that I missed that the engine found.
  2. Continue my streak on Chessable. Currently that stands at 626 days, and my intention is to not stop – ever. I don’t use the freeze protect anything. Those are 626 actual days. Some where I might have done all of 1-2 lines just to keep the streak going, and some where I did hundreds to really work.
  3. Work on openings. For real. For 2022 I give myself the goal of being able to competently play the Caro-Kann and the Slav by the time we get out of the year. I really want to get in tune with the Caro-Slav pawn structure and understand those …e5 and …c5 breaks.
  4. Read four books cover to cover, not counting the ones that I read for revies or the ones I pick up and play through a game of two from. The four books are 300 Most Important Chess Positions by Enqvist; Chess Strategy for Club Players by Grooten; What it Takes to Become a Chess Master by Soltis; The Science of Strategy by Kotov. As you can see, strategic/positional play will be the theme of these books.
  5. Get in much better physical shape. I used to enjoy working out and lifting weights in my youth. I need to get back to that. Some of you witnessed me wrestle a former NFL player when I was 44 or 45 🙂 So I’m not afraid of physicality, I just need to get back to wanting to do the hard work/heavy lifting.
  6. Enjoy myself and trust in the process.

So now let’s take those one by one and break them down.

  1. Annotate and publish the annotations. I am going to give myself a C on this. I haven’t published much in the way of annotated games. That doesn’t, however, mean that I haven’t been doing the work. I have gone over almost every game I have played this year in reasonable detail. I need to publish them on the blog though. I’ve been giving this some thought, and I might start publishing an entire tournament worth at a time like I did with the Perelman Memorial games.
  2. Continue my streak on Chessable. Here I have to give myself an F. I managed to miss a day after 676 days. The good news is that my current streak is back to 113 days. Again, I don’t use the restore or freeze protect or anything like that. Yes, it sucks to lose that streak, but it’s not the end of the world. Besides, in around a year and a half I can be right back there!
  3. Work on openings. Here I will give myself a B. The goal was to get the Slav and the Caro up to relatively high levels. I am making progress in that regard. I have played some nice games in both openings, but more importantly I have learned a lot. My understanding is coming along, and the hope is that if I continue to grow at the same pace, I’ll have a decent level of understanding with both of these.
  4. Read four books cover to cover. I’ll give myself a C- on this one. I have been reading a bit, but not enough. The four books I am reading total 1,151 pages. I have read 138 of those pages. This leaves 1,103 pages to go. With 184 days left in the year I need to average 5.5 pages a day in order to finish all four. I think that this is doable, but I need to embrace the idea of reading something like 15-20 pages on weekend days and maybe another 5-10 if I get time during a weekday. That’s doable.
  5. Get in much better physical shape. I’m going to give myself a qualified C- here as well. For the last few weeks, I have worked diligently at this and am showing results. But it took me until now to start. Having said that, I’m on the longest streak of my adult life where I have had no sweets by choice. As I am type 2 better control of my blood sugar does lead to much better calculating ability due to less brain fog.
  6. Enjoy myself and trust in the process. Here I am going to give myself an A. I have most certainly maintained trust in the process and am enjoying myself.

So overall I am happy with how the year is going, though I understand I have a lot of work to do. I have gained over 100 rating points this year and am close to surpassing 1800 again. I’ll take it.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Verbus-Wainscott 0-1

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Part of my goal this year is to get every game I played annotated and published here. I have been semi-lazy about that goal, but here is the earliest game I have annotated for the year so far. It took place in the third round of my first tournament.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Daniel Perelman Memorial Tournament

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Recently a former member of the Southwest Chess Club, Daniel Perelman, passed away at the untimely age of 18 in a plane crash as he was training to get his pilot’s license.

We changed the name of our most recent tournament to the Daniel Perelman Memorial. Here are my games with analysis. This was an up and down event for me. I won two nice games. I lost horribly in one, and I drew one after missing a free rook.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Chess Blindness

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In my Thursday game this past week I sat down to play Minghang Chen, who’s a solid 1800 player. I had a good feeling all day and was in a great frame of mind at the board.

I had the White pieces and in short order I achieved an almost winning position:

A few moves later we reach this position and now I’m thinking it’s time to get my material back and win some of my own.

After taking the d pawn, we arrive at

And now I can just bail out into a better position with Re6, but my idea is to capture on f6 with the d6 rook. So I do, and Black captures back.

Here I can just take again on f6 and then after …Bc3 Qb6 I have an edge

Instead I decide (correctly) that Qxe5 is much better.

Now I start thinking that Black might have something with …Bc3, and this is where chess blindness kicks in. Black plays the move.

The blindness takes two forms here. It starts with the fact that for some reason I’m not realizing that my rook on f1 is protected by the bishop. So I play what I feel is the forced 34.Qxc3 Qxc3  35.Nxc3 and offer a draw, which was accepted (I’m going to lose the c pawn, so I’m probably on the worse end of this draw, but my opponent had little time left on the clock.)

However, do you spot what I  missed?

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Yep, I can just play 34.Qxb8 and I’m completely winning. The rook on b8 hangs, but since in my mind I think that my rook on f1 is hanging with check I don’t see this at all.

Chess blindness is a disease which must be eradicated.

Here is the whole game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott