Draw vs a NM

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Last night I played my weekly club game against NM Ethan Allen. Fortunately for me he is returning to chess after a long layoff, and so is a bit on the rusty side. He used an awful lot of time, and when we agreed a draw I was ahead by about 40 minutes on the clock.

Now on to the US Amateur Team tournament starting tonight in Chicago.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Update – I Have Been Working

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While I haven’t updated much on here lately, I did want to assure everyone that I have been working. Perhaps not as much as I’d like but working indeed.

I’m on pace in terms of reading Chess Strategy for Club Players by Grooten, and I have been working some on analyzing my games. I will start posting them in the very near future.

I will be playing in the US Amateur Team tournament this weekend, and in a four round G/60 next Saturday, so there will be a lot of info to come.

The Chessable streak is still going strong.

Together, we’re going to get through this journey and make this happen!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Interview on Chess Journeys Podcast

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After my recent spin at guest hosting Perpetual Chess and interviewing Ben Johnson, the tables were then turned as I was interviewed by Dr. Scull.

Ep. 29 Chris Wainscott (1700 USCF) by Chess Journeys: Tales of Adult Improvement (anchor.fm)

Here I explain my plans for the year, and the journey so far.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

New Year Resolutions, Such as They Are

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I’m not a super big believer in making New Year resolutions since I think that if you’re going to do something then you’re likely to just do it, and if you’re not, then saying “I’ll make that my New Year’s Resolution” is just a way to put off the decision and then to tell yourself it’s OK when you fail.

Having said that, I do believe that a calendar year is a good time frame to decide if something is working, should be changed, etc.

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.

You’ll notice that none of the above relates to rating. I have no intention of setting rating related goals at all anymore other than the long-term goal of getting to 2200.

I used to do the “If only I get to rating X this year” and, in fact, I think I did a “If only I get back to 1800 this year” for last year. If the results of only two games of mine at the end of the year had gone the other way, I would have done that. Yet take a moment to reflect on the insanity of that thought process for a moment. Can I really pretend that two games with different results would mean much in the larger scheme of things? Of course not.

Therefore, rating goals are gone. Now, we focus on the process.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Recovering Some Ground Wainscott-Williams 1-0

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A little over a week ago I entered what will be my final tournament of the year. A three round, G/100 Swiss. My rating had plummeted nearly 100 points in two events, and my first-round opponent was seven-time state champion Bill Williams.

While Bill is finally started to show some signs of his age, he’s still a very dangerous opponent who can’t be taken lightly.

In this game I was fortunate, as after one blunder, he quickly committed others.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

On The Topic of Learning Openings

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Something I’ve talked about over the years is my attempts at balancing my need to learn openings against not spending too much time working on them.

In fact, over the years I’ve tended to err on the side of too little time spent on the openings, but I am gradually trying to rectify that. I am set (mostly) on my Black repertoire currently, but I am certainly not planning on trying to focus on blind memorization.

I know that in order to truly learn openings I need to understand the “whys” of the moves instead of just memorizing them. That brings me to this interesting place. Here are two positions in a sideline of one of the main lines of the Slav. These positions are from the 6.Nh4 sideline of the main line after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5

Here we have two lines we’ll look at. The first is 6.Nh4 Bc8 7.e3 e5 8.Bxc4 exd4 9.exd4 Be7 10.0-0 0-0 11.h3 Na6 12.Re1 and now the knight moves to c7 12…Nc7

The other line we’ll look at is 11.Nf3 Na6 12.Re1 Nb4

The part I need to figure out is why does the knight head to c7 in the first line, but b4 in the second? The b4 square seems to be a solid outpost in either line. Also, the idea with IQP’s is typically to blockade them, and the Black knight is influencing the d5 square regardless of whether it’s on c7 or b4.

I know that I’ll never truly understand openings until I can learn why the different choices here.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

PS. These two lines come from Boris Avrukh’s amazing book The Classical Slav, which while a bit old for serious players is an amazing resource for club players wanting to learn the opening. You can pick it up for a decent price here.

The Wisdom of Priyadharsan

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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