The Wisdom of Priyadharsan

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Over the past few years the journeys of many adults trying to improve at chess have started to gain a larger audience. So much so that the phrase “adult improver” is now widely accepted thanks to Ben Johnson’s Perpetual Chess Podcast.

In my own years of working to improve as an adult I have heard every take on improvement from “of course Player X can become a GM after starting chess at age 45 as long as they work hard enough” to “anyone working to improve as an adult will be lucky to gain 50 Elo.” My own beliefs fall somewhere in the middle.

Peak to trough in my return to chess I have gained 400 points. Now I need to regain the ones I’ve lost and go 304 beyond that.

An interesting point of view came to my attention the other day in the form of a Twitter thread by my friend GM Priyadharshan Kannappan.

In it he makes some very interesting observations which I had to admit apply to me. Here’s the thread:

My first thought was, of course, to be internally dismissive. After all, what could a GM possibly know about the struggle to improve? Of course that was just a shallow initial thought. When I stepped back and really took the time to think about it this was my reply.

This was based on the sudden realization that every time I have discussed chess with stronger players, be it a GM/IM/FM that while I was trying to make some superficial point they were trying to really dig in to the position.

I reflected back to a conversation I once had with Tom Polgar where I said that when I analyze with stronger players I am capable of making interesting and sometime useful suggestions, but that I struggle to evaluate those ideas correctly over the board.

Now it makes perfect sense to me that a large part of the reason is that when analyzing with strong players I do become  more fully immersed in a position. Players at my level often try one or two ideas in a position when analyzing, yet I’ve sat in on analysis by titled players where they’ll look at 5-6 times that number. I am trying to make the idea I’ve become fixated on work, while they are trying to break down a position into its essence.

This is something I should really work on. Now I just need to figure out an effective way of doing so. I’ll start with analysis of my own games.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Tactics Were Flowing: Dreuth-Wainscott 0-1

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

My last game was a nice miniature. For the first time in a while I could feel a lot of things coming together. From the first move, when I took a minute to think instead of playing an automatic reply, to realizing my opponent blundered with d3, to the final move in the game.

I will continue working to try to keep this feeling growing.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

How Active Reading is Making a Difference

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Earlier I sent out this tweet:

As soon as I went downstairs to the laboratory and picked up the book I found a great example of what I was talking about.

Take this position from the game Atalik – Hickl 2003

Here White has just played 23.a5, which sacs a pawn. This move is given in the opening section to the game in which the first 28 moves are given without comment in order to get to the position the author finds relevant to the topic being covered (knights on blockading squares). So I make the move. Then I ask “Why would he play that? What’s the point?”

I don’t see the answer right away, so old habit kicks in and I immediately just start making the next few moves to get to the point of the book. Then I stop. I think.  I realize that this is exactly the bad habit I am working to overcome.

So I go back to the position above, and I really ask myself why would White make that move? After all, Suat was rated 2599 at the time of this game, so there is clearly a very clear reason for this move.

I spent a few minutes really thinking about this position. The obvious idea has to be that White can take control of the b file, but how? After all, after 23…cxb4 24.Rxb4 bxa5 White can’t just double rooks as his rook is under attack.

After White moves the rook to safety, Black just moves one of his rooks to the b file, and White has nothing. The it hit me. White can leave the rook en prise and play 25.Qb6, counterattacking the Black queen, giving him time to double on the file!

I rushed over to the computer to pull up the game and check with an engine, but to my delight I found that Suat has an annotated version of this game in the database! Enjoy!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Declined the Repetition Against a Stronger Player

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Last Thursday, while playing my weekly tournament game at the Southwest Chess Club this position was reached after my opponent played 12…d5

I already had the genesis of the idea to play Bg5, but now realize that I can do so and force a repetition. 

Then, as I look just a little deeper, I see that if we play 13.Bg5 Qe5 14.Bf4 that if the queen goes back to f6 I actually have another idea rather than just repeat. I start trying to calculate it, but realize that my opponent can simply sidestep all this and take the draw by shuffling between e5 and d4. 

Therefore, I decide to go ahead and play the first move to make the rest easier to calculate if my opponent does, in fact, go from f6-e5-f6. Which he does, giving us this position:

Now I can settle in and calculate. If I can’t find something concrete, I can just bail out with the repetition.

So what did I play here? Scroll down for the rest of the game after taking a few minutes to come up with a solution.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Well, for some reason my pgn board isn’t working so well right now, so here is the answer:

 

I played 15.e5

Now if the queen goes to f5 16.g4 traps it. So after 15…Qh4 16.Rd1 there are no good squares left for the queen. 

I won quickly after my opponent blundered with 16…Nf5

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Nice Finish

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Wednesday saw a nice finish in my game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Failed to Calculate Further

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Last Wednesday I played my second OTB game since the beginning of the pandemic.

While I did win the game, I horribly misplayed this position:

Here I played 33…Qh5?? 

Clearly the queen cannot be captured since the game would then proceed 34.Bxh5 Rg2+ 35.Kh1 Rh1+ 36.Kg1 Rag2#

What I calculated was 34.Qxc2 Qg6+ 35.Qg2 Rxg2+ 36.Bxg2 Nxe4 and thought “OK, up a pawn…must be better.” Do you see what I missed? (Scroll down for the answer)

 

 

 

 

 

Here I missed 37.f5!

In this position

I also missed 34.Bg4 Rxc2 35.f5! Qxg4 37.hxg4

So there’s a lot of work still to be done.

Luckily my opponent saw none of that and played 34.Rd2

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Working on the Slav

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Lately I’ve been revisiting a book that I first read around eight or so years ago.

Yes, this is a relatively “entry level” style book, and yes, it’s a decade old. I get that those are knocks against it. I understand the hesitancy that might give some people when it comes to re-reading a book ostensibly about an opening.

However, what this book really serves as is an annotated collection of well-selected games designed to introduce one to the themes prevalent throughout the opening.

I plan on using this as a starting point for my own work at relearning these lines, hopefully in a better manner than last time!

Here’s an example of my terrible Slav play from eight years ago.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Getting Back into the Swing

My Patreon page is now live!

I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

For the last several years I’ve “worked” on chess every day. Loose emphasis on the word worked.

Adult Improver Dr. Vishu Sreekumar made the point on Ben Johnson’s Perpetual Chess podcast that you can’t truly improve at chess without some level of obsessions. You can hear that episode here.

I think that incremental improvements can be made without that level of obsession, but I do think that Dr. Sreekumar’s point is well taken…it’s not possible to make sizeable improvements at chess without an almost fanatical pursuit of that goal.

I’ve been definitely doing the work that is needed to stay at the same level that I have been, and to slowly, gradually, improve.

For example, I’ve been working on learning to properly evaluate positions, and while I’m still light years from where I want to be, I’m certainly far better than I was even just a couple of months ago.

I have been working on tactics every day, and that will never stop. I will put in the work there.

I have a set repertoire as Black and will begin learning it deeply. Soon I’ll do the same for White.

Mostly though, I’m itching for OTB to come back.

What do all of these things add up to? Let’s be honest…right now, not a whole lot. I need to gather the inner fire to push through obsessively for a while. It’s time to make the push to drive to 1900.

That will require some sacrifice. TV time, family time, etc. Am I ready? I guess we’ll find out.

One thing I have been going as part of my training is playing through games such as this one:

Instead of just flipping through the moves and maybe taking note of the killing blow I actually work through these. In his game, for instance, I’m fascinated by the sequence which starts with 19.e5 and goes through 25.f5.

Will I make that next level? Time will tell.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Slight Retooling of the Training Program

Listen, since you here, I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

So I’m trying to retool my training in a way that will be relatively small, but will hopefully have big results.

Up to this point I’ve been the classic example of “a little of this, a little of that” style training. Meaning that in the course of the same block of let’s say two hours on any given day I might play through a game or two from a games collection, then go through a few lines in an opening book, then solve some tactics before reading a little bit of an endgame book. Basically the ADD version of chess training.

So the change is this…

Starting as of a few days ago I’m going to focus on ONE area of improvement at a time, with some slight allowances for other things.

So now a day of training will look more like this:

I tend to start every day when I wake up with some Chessable. I spend maybe 30 minutes there, mostly working on some tactics courses there. I also pop in for a few minutes here and there. For example, if I arrive at work 15 minutes early I might sit in my car solving puzzles for 10 minutes before heading in. This should be all of the training I need for simple tactics.

The change comes in the form of what I’ll be doing for the bulk of my time. I now plan on focusing on one thing at a time, for at least a month. Want to work on the endgame? Then it needs to be for at least a month. Want to work on calculation? Then it needs to be for at least a month. Want to learn a new opening? Then it needs to be for at least a month.

I’ll still flip between materials a bit here and there, but within the same subject. So, for instance, if I work on calculation I may flip between a book on endgame studies, and a book like GM RAM or Perfect Your Chess, but I will stay with the subject.

What are some things that YOU have done? What impact did they have on your chess? I’d love to hear some stories.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Slow Down! Don’t Rush.

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.

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