Friday I was hanging around the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis with my friend Glenn Panner when the opportunity to schedule a game against one of the local kids came up.
One of the Junior SPICE members, Ben, was sitting at a rating of 1995. His mother was trying to find a game for him in hopes that he could get over 2000 and get that pressure off of him.
I agreed to play him Saturday night at the club when nothing else was going on. The conditions were perfect since the club has amazing lighting and we were playing with an elegant wood set on one of the beautiful chess tables the club has. (Side note – I once looked up those tables and they cost almost $5000 each…though I’m sure if you buy them in bulk as the club does you probably get a discount!)
The agreed time control was G/90+30 and Ben and I wound up having the entire second floor of the club to ourselves. The only spectators were a friend of Ben who came to look at the game and WGM Anna Sharevich who took a look at the position and then went back downstairs to give her evaluation to Ben’s mother who was curious. Anna’s eval…totally even.
The only other interruption was equal parts amusing and annoying. The closing ceremony for the Sinquefield Cup was taking place across the street at the same time and one of the guys from the tech crew came upstairs at one point to lower a needed cable to someone below. He opened the window and then got into a relatively loud discussion with whomever he was lowering the cable to. I don’t know what an “S loop” is, but it was something he clearly didn’t think was a good idea to have!
Luckily this only went on for a minute or two and didn’t seem to disturb Ben too much. It happened pretty much equally on my time vs. his.
As for the game itself, it was a hard fought battle until I blundered the exchange although the reason I did so is instructive in and of itself.
Here is the game in it’s entirety. Thanks to Ben and his mother Stephanie for the opportunity to play this exciting game! Also, congratulations to Ben who it looks like will be an expert once this is rated!
Here is the game that I played Thursday. I felt like the game was slightly better for me, but then I fell into a perpetual trap by my opponent.
The question when you fall into these sorts of things is “why?” Answering that question is where improvement comes from.
With the exception of a handful of times, “you should have seen that” just doesn’t hold water. There is a reason people don’t see things.
It’s easy to say “you study tactics, therefore you have no excuse” but the truth goes so much deeper than that. Especially as all tactics are not created equally.
In this case I think it’s quite interesting and the answer seems to be that I still assume that all re-captures are just automatic.
Interestingly this is related to an issue I was having around five years ago when I was 1600 or so and had a tendency to miss in between moves all the time. I was able to fix that with careful work, so now it would seem that I need to do that with this problem as well.
Here is another interesting position I was just looking at:
Here White has won a pawn out of the opening, but it looks like Black can now get it back with 14…Nxb6.
Instead, however, Black plays 14…Bd6.
In looking a bit deeper it turns out that after 14…Nxb6 White not only regains the pawn with 15.Bf4 Rc8 16.Rxb7, but now once Black retreats the knight with 16…Nd7 White turns up the heat with 17.Bc4 and although there is still a lot of play left in the position this seems pretty clearly a strategically won position. Black has gone from down a pawn to down a pawn with a terrible position.
The lesson here is to always double check that “free” pawn.
Here is the entire game:
For anyone wondering, the answer is yes. This “R Huebner” is in fact German legend Robert Huebner. He continues to play on a semi-regular basis even into his late 60’s. Mostly just a game or so every month or two, but nevertheless, kudos to him!
Every so often on chess.com I’ll read a post in the forums where someone is trying to claim that the bishop pair is meaningless.
Here is an excellent example of the bishop pair in action. Look at this position through the eyes of, let’s say, an advanced novice (we’ll say rated around 1000) and the first thing that you probably see is that White is up a pawn and has “shattered” Black’s kingside pawns.
Yet Black makes the most of the bishop pair to steer this game to a draw. Here is the entire game. The position above is after Black’s 23rd move.
I’m sure there are thousands of flashier examples, but this one seems quite pragmatic.
One of the things that I have historically done when I have sat down to study is…whatever I want.
In other words I rarely had a plan on how I would like to improve, but rather would often just do whatever I felt like doing at that moment. On the one hand the idea that it’s easier to stay engaged when you are doing something that interests you has a lot of truth to it. Yet on the other hand not conscientiously working on repairing weaknesses keeps those weaknesses as going concerns for much longer than they should be.
So I sat down a couple of weeks ago to make myself a rough sketch training schedule which looks like this:
Thursday: Entering My Game From That Night Into Chessbase
Friday: Game Analysis
Sunday: Gelfand (i.e. Positional Decision Making in Chess or Dynamic Decision Making in Chess.
The intent behind that is that while my main focus is Yusupov, those non-Yusupov items are still quite important. The approach I take is that Wed-Sun I may still work on Yusupov, but not until I’ve spend a bit of time on the other items.
There is some method to the madness, especially from Wed-Fri. I play tournament games at my club pretty much each Thursday, and I usually know well in advance who I will be playing and with what color. So while I don’t try to do any deep prep, I do work on whatever opening seems the most likely to be played.
Thursdays I play the games, so I can’t really study much on a Thursday. Therefore I try to at least get the game entered in to Chessbase. This takes me to Friday, which is the heavy lifting day.
Fridays are for analysis. My intention is to try to go through my games with my opponents as often as I can. Then I analyze everything as well as I can without a computer. Once that’s done I go back and check with the engine.
I’m not wholly dogmatic to this approach. For example, this past Friday I didn’t get a chance to analyze my game from last Thursday with Curt Neumann, so I analyzed it yesterday and this morning.
For the most part though, if I miss something then I wait for the following week to work on it. This may not be the best approach, but for now it seems to be the most pragmatic.
I’m curious to hear feedback from anyone as to what works or doesn’t work for you!
My friend FM Alex Betaneli just held the 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival.
I had offered to take a half day at work the day the tournament began so I could go help set up. Alex also asked if I would like to be a house player if needed, which I agreed to do.
As it turned out there were an odd number of players, so I did get the chance to play a game.
I was paired with Merissa Wongso, rated 1489. During this game I made two horrible decisions; one psychological, one strategic.
Here is the first position. I am White.
I have decent knowledge of the 9.Ne1 KID. I also have working knowledge of the 7…exd4 KID since I used to play it. I don’t know much about the Grunfeld since no one seems to play that against me, but I at least know a little.
So what do I do? Do I play 3.d4 and head right down the road to a nice mainline opening? Nope, I bail out with 3.g3. Now there’s nothing wrong with the move in and of itself, and had the move order been 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 you’d expect 3.Nc3 and this position arises anyways. But I don’t play 2.g3 for a variety of reasons and so easily could have avoided this.
The problem is that I sit there and convince myself that playing something that my opponent is less familiar with should work to my advantage. That’s ridiculous. I should play the more dynamic mainlines and not duck and cover.
So that’s the psychologically incorrect decision.
Here is the strategically incorrect one:
Here my opponent has just played 13…Nd4. I instantly saw that the pawn on b7 hangs. So after 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Bxb7 Rab8 17.Bg2 I’m up material.
However, compare the two positions. In the second position two pairs of minors are off the board, all possibility for pressure on the king side is gone, and Black’s knight on d4 is strong.
Imagine instead I had played 14.Nd5 which forces 14…Bxe4 15.dxe4
In this position White is not up any material, but has a better position with more possibilities.
Here is the entire game. My opponent played the rook ending extremely well.
This past Thursday the first round of the Southwest Chess Club Joe Crothers’ Memorial Championship took place.
I am relatively pleased with my first round game. Other than one opening inaccuracy (11…c5 instead of 11…Bb7) and one ridiculous waste of time (17…Rc8, only to have to move right back to a8 on my next move) I think my play was fairly good.
For a while after I started playing again in 2011 I would jump at the chance to take a draw either from a stronger player in almost any position, or from an evenly matched player when I didn’t have a dominating position.
Lately I’ve gone to the opposite extreme. I don’t want draws at all. On the surface that’s not the end of the world since it’s a piece of advice that you see many players given by coaches in their quests to improve.
On the other hand, it can be very bad when someone goes to such great lengths to avoid draws as to play intentionally bad moves.
Take this position for instance. I’m white and it’s my move.
The correct candidate moves are 30.Bxc6, or possibly even 30.Bd5. However, I didn’t want to exchange pieces. I wanted to keep as many pieces on the board as I possibly could.
So I played 30.f3 and my position immediately goes from slightly worse (once the bishops come off I’ll have some light square issues) to strategically dead lost.
This is clearly a serious issue that I need to work to overcome.