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

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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

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Wainscott-Beckwith 1-0

Last Thursday at the club I played a game which went exactly the way you would expect, but that has some interesting ideas nonetheless.

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What Will 2019 Hold?

It seems that each year since I started playing again in 2011 I have asked myself at the beginning of the year what my plan was.

I still recall how initially my plan was to get to 1600 by the end of 2011, then 1800 by 2012, then I gave myself five years to make expert and another ten to make master.  So my initial plan was to be a master by the age of 54.

In some ways I was incredibly naïve when I made that plan.  After all, I hadn’t worked on chess in years and so much had changed.

Nevertheless, it’s been said that it’s better to play with a bad plan than with no plan at all.

From Jan of 2011 until now peak to trough I gained well over 400 points, hitting a high mark of 1896.  However, since then I have shed roughly 130 points and find myself at 1766.

From a rating standpoint I have stagnated for a long time, but from a strength standpoint my understanding of the game has grown by leaps and bounds.

However, strength in analysis is one thing, whereas showing that strength over the board is quite another.

So that brings me to now, the beginning of a new year.

My goal for 2019 is to finally hit 1900.  In order to get there the main thing I will need is consistency.  For sure I need to find a way to level out my results.  I’ve been streaky for a long time, and it’s time to work on fixing that.

Unlike many years in the past, this year’s plan isn’t about how I’m planning to do X amount of Y thing, etc.  Rather, this year the focus is going to be focus itself.

The main area of consistency that I will be working towards is simply ensuring that I am working deliberately each day at improving.  For example, each day when I get a few minutes to look at my phone during the day, instead of heading right to Facebook I’ll head to chesstempo’s mobile site and knock out a few pattern recognition tactics.  I’ve been using the advice that Andrzej Krzywda gave on Perpetual Chess, which is to solve several tactics per day without logging in.  This feeds the user very basic tactics which are useful for developing pattern recognition and keeping it sharp.  Good enough for a CM with an IM norm, good enough for me.

In theory if I do that properly, then by the time I get home after work I’ll already have 20-45 minutes in, which should be just about all I need for this.

I also plan on going back to Chessable in a big way.  I was using it over the summer and was really getting some opening lines down, but then when I lost my job I also kind of lost my drive for this.  It’s time to get it back and start working on openings again.

Another area of focus is that I really need to start taking lessons again.  I’ve set that aside for a long time now, and it’s time to get back to work.  I need to set up a block of lessons and try to do at least one hour per week every week that I possibly can.

I’m very lucky in that I have a friend who is a GM who I have a pact with.  I push him to focus very hard on his own chess and he does the same for me.  He’s reviewed a few games of mine and he’s given me some great advice about what books I should be reading, etc.

At this point I’d like to admit that I’m slightly distracted as I type this because I am watching the game Naroditsky-Saidy in Round One of the Bay Area International.  Here is the current position:

Naturally I’m hoping that Saidy can hold the position.  He’s certainly one of the last American players with close ties to Fischer who still plays.

In addition to regular club tournaments I plan on trying to play more this year than I have in the past few.

I will be playing the Northeastern Open in January and the USATN in February.  March will see me directing almost every week, so that leaves little room for playing, but then in April I’ll try to get right back in and play the Arpad Elo Open here locally.

As I don’t have much time off of work at my new job yet I’ll have to play more local tournaments than anything since I won’t have enough vacation time to travel anywhere or play in any longer events such as the Chicago Open.

When all is said and done I think that consistency will be the driving force for me in 2019.  I certainly still have plenty of time and passion to achieve my goals, culminating with the ultimate goal of NM.

The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.  Today I am taking that step.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Review of Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners by Van de Oudeweetering

Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners by Arthur Van de Oudeweetering published by New in Chess 2018 240pp

If you followed my last blog on the late Sevan Muradian’s Chess IQ site then you know that I was a big fan of Dutch IM Arthur Van de Oudeweetering’s first two books, Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition and Train Your Chess Pattern Recognition.  I’d link to those reviews, but sadly with the passing of Sevan and the subsequent shuttering of the Chess IQ site they have been lose to time.

Now comes the renowned Dutch Trainer’s third book in the series, Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners.  When it first arrived in the mail I thought “Well, OK.” since “for beginners” was right there in the title.  Since I do some coaching, I do have some use for beginner level materials, but it’s rather limited.  However, when I actually opened the book and began to glance through it I realized that “for beginners” was somewhat misleading.

Perhaps it’s the pedantry of no one who’s been playing for any length of time, especially in tournaments, wanting to associate the word beginner with themselves, but this book is clearly not just for beginners, which for the sake of argument let’s say the word would typically indicate those with sub 1000 Elo’s.

Yes, there are the normal beginner level chapters covering things like rooks on the seventh, or getting the king to safety, or the Greek Bishop Sacrifice, but those chapters contain excellent examples which should be of a high level of value for players all the way up to my level (peak rating 1896) or at least close to it.

As I became more engrossed in glancing through the pages I quickly found myself heading downstairs to my basement chess laboratory to sit down at a table with a board and set.

The book is comprised of four parts containing a total of 25 chapters.  They are:

Part I – Typical pawns and pieces

Chapter 1 The lingering king

Chapter 2 Queen in trouble

Chapter 3 Rook(s) on the seventh rank

Chapter 4 Botvinnik’s fearsome bishop

Chapter 5 Kasparov’s favorite

Chapter 6 Fischer’s knight

Chapter 7 Opposites are not equal

Chapter 8 Cousins from a distance

Chapter 9 IDP: Isolated Doubled Pawn

Chapter 10 A central striker

Chapter 11 Central supremacy

Exercises Part I

Part II When pawns meet

Chapter 12 Reaching for the hook

Chapter 13 When Harry meets g6

Chapter 14 Deceptive symmetry after the IQP

Chapter 15 Breaking free

Chapter 16 Flank attack!

Part III When to exchange and when not to

Chapter 17 King of all exchanges

Chapter 18 Along the open file

Chapter 19 What remains: toward and good knight versus a bad bishop

Chapter 20 The ace of space

Part IV Sacrifices – the classics

Chapter 21 Bishop takes h7

Chapter 22 The Soviet sac

Chapter 23 The silent knight sac

Chapter 24 From Morphy to Magnus

Chapter 25 Capa’s bishop sac

Exercises Parts II, III, and IV

As you can see by the titles of the chapters alone, the material is not exactly that of the beginner level.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is Chapter 22, which is on the “Soviet sac.”  I’ve never heard that used as a term before, so I’m assuming it might have been created for this book, but the concept is one I am certainly familiar with.

The Soviet sac is the sacking of the exchange on c3 in the Sicilian.  This is a common concept.  Take this well known position which is in the book.  This is Boleslavsky-Geller from Zurich 1953.

Here Geller uncorks 15…Rxc3 16.bxc3 Qa5 17.Qe3 Qa3 18.h5 b4

From here Geller won a nice game, which is covered in it’s entirety in this book.

The exercises are also quite valuable.  Take for example this one from Part I.  The game is Stripunsky-Shimanov 2018

The question asked of readers is “How would you judge the position after 25…Nd4+ 26.Bxd4 Bxd4?”

Take your time and try to answer that question.  The solution is at the bottom of the page.

All in all this book is valuable far beyond the expectation given in the title.  I think it would have been better had the word “beginners” been replaced with “club players.”

I recommend this book as well as the earlier works by IM Van de Oudeweetering.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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The solution to Stripunsky-Shimanov is:

“Black is clearly better: he has the attack with opposite-coloured bishop, with White’s king in the middle (not able to run away via g1). White’s bishop is almost a mere pawn, while Black’s is a superb Botvinnik bishop (see Chapter 4).”

My Best Ever Piece of OTB Calculation

Thursday I played a game where I somehow was able to calculate crystal clear at the end of the game.  Hopefully that’s a sign that all the work I did over the summer is paying dividends!

Feel free to take some time and try to work out the solution, which I give at the bottom of this post.

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.

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The solution to the above position:

 

I’m Back!

After a relatively lengthy hiatus I am back.  After not working for nearly 3.5 months I found a new job and that took a lot of time away from chess for me.

However, now I’m back and ready to go.

I just did 20 tactics puzzles and correctly solved 17 of them, so hopefully this means that I’m not too rusty.

In the past six weeks I’ve only played two games.  One against a 1200 and one against a 500.  In both cases I was just playing as a house player so no one went without a game.

But now I’m ready.  I’ve got the fire. The hunger.  The whatever.

Let’s do 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.

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A Little Endgame Knowledge Goes a Long Way

One time I heard Maurice Ashley say something in a lecture that has just stuck with me ever since I heard it.

“Strong players know which endgames are won and which are drawn. This saves them from having to calculate everything.”

The point being of course, that if a strong player can calculate to a position which they know is a win or a draw then they don’t need to calculate any further.

Here is an excellent example of that. This position comes from the game Pogonina-Kashlinskaya from the recently concluded Russian Women’s Superfinal, which was won by WGM Pogonina.

I was looking at the game because it’s a KID in the most recent TWIC download.

Here is the position.

If you look at the position superficially it’s easy to see that White is up a pawn and also has a pawn on the 7th supported by a bishop and with the king quite close as well.

But if you see deeper you will see a feature of the position which shows you an easy way for Black to hold.

The move here is 53…Nd8!

Sure, White  can play 54.Ke7, but after 54…Nxf7

White had nothing better to do than 55.Bxf7 and offer a draw.

Why?  Because of the “wrong rook pawn” rule of the endgame. If one side has a bishop and a rook pawn and the bishop is the opposite color of the queening square for the pawn then as long as the weaker side can get their king into the corner they can’t be forced out and it’s a draw. Try it for yourself!

So in the position after 55.Bxf7 Black doesn’t even need to try to hold on to her h pawn. She just runs to the corner and stays there.

Here is the game in it’s entirety.

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Hard Fought Draw – Wainscott – Becker

Last night I played Allen Becker.  Early on I sacked a pawn for what I thought was plenty of comp, but was clearly not.

However, I managed to fight back and hold the draw.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Beware the Automatic Rook Move!

Here’s what looks to be a typical position:

The game is from Budapest 1996 and is between Jacob Aagaard and Istvan Almasi.

In his most recent book Thinking Inside the Box Aagaard says that this was apparently from a Petrosian game, and here Petrosian played the normal looking 17.Rad1. (Side note – I looked but couldn’t find the Petrosian game.)

So I’m looking at this position and thinking, yeah, that’s probably what I’d play. After all, don’t we often just automatically make moves to put our rooks in the center of the board like that? Especially on an open file?

However, the soon-to-be-IM Aagaard realizes that the only thing that is going to happen on the d-file is exchanges. And he doesn’t want exchanges.

So here he plays 17.Re2 in order to double on the e-file and prevent the exchanges he was worried about.  He wins this game in a great attacking style.

The main point of this game is not to show this move.  It’s in the chapter on analyzing your own games, and beyond this there is some detail by Jacob on his difficulties with the French Defense.

However, as someone who has made automatic looking rook moves for years I found this tiny snippet to be incredibly useful.

Here is the 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.