A Fixable Problem

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.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Wainscott – Becker 1/2-1/2

Here is the game I promised to post.  I still haven’t had time to analyze it as I’ve been fighting a fairly serious ear infection this past week, but it’s still instructive nevertheless.

In the final position I am clearly better.  Plainly and obviously better.  However, this was the one round of the tournament which had no secondary time control, and I’ve had a couple of games like this against Allen where I was better and then lost the thread in time pressure.

So from a pragmatic standpoint the result seems OK on the surface.  In fact, I believe this makes my past two games against Allen draws, although the last one was dead dead drawn.

Yet from the standpoint of wanting to improve this result stings.  I know that I should have pressed, but I did not.  It’s tough to justify this.  The good news is that it’s been years since I last did this, so let’s hope it’s years before I do it again 🙂

All in all I’m pleased with my play in this game although I am annoyed at my lack of fighting spirit.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Never As Good As It Seems (Wainscott – Hegelmeyer, W 1-0)

Yesterday I played a game which I thought was a fairly good game by myself, only to realize that I missed the simple win of a pawn on move 10.

I did realize that William could have simply gone down the exchange instead of a rook after 25…Ke7 instead of 25…Kf8, but even here I missed the intermezzo 27…Bxe4 which leaves White with a smaller advantage than I had thought I’d have.

So while I’ll take the win, the bottom line is that there is still a lot of work to do.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Importance of Tempi

In this game which I played earlier this evening my opponent shows the importance of time in the game of chess.

One of the first intermediate concepts that I learned was that of time.  I watched Yasser Seirawan’s video series and when he spoke about the four elements (time, space, force, and pawn structure) I fought hard to grasp the concept of time.

This game illustrates the importance of time.  First, in the way that Jim plays 3…Be7 then 4…Bb4.  And again later when undergoing the series of queen moves (e8-f7-e8-d7-f7-g6) which start with 17…Qe8

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Strategic Mistake Leads to Endgame Loss

Here is a game I played at the Waukesha Club on Wednesday.

I didn’t want to allow the position to become completely closed with no tension so I came up with the dubious idea of 11…Nh5 which would allow me to get 12…e5 in, but I completely missed the 13.Nc4 idea.

After that I am probably strategically lost.  I have a lot of work to do analyzing this game completely yet, but the ending was just bad for me since my rooks were passively stuck behind my pawns.

I also thought that Ivan’s idea with 30.b4 was really good.  My guess is that it might not be the most precise move according to an engine, but that from a practical sense it’s great since it allows him to open up a second theater of operations (principle of two weaknesses) and break through.

All in all a very instructive game, although now my work is cut out for me to salvage my tournament there with three rounds to go.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

My First Yusupovian Failure

As I have been talking about for a while now, I am working through the Yusupov series of books by Quality Chess.  Recently I have experienced my first failure.

For those who may not be familiar with the series, each chapter works as follows: first, there are various positions with analysis designed to convey the subject matter.  Then 12 test positions are given, each with a point value.  Once the reader has taken the test and scored their results a mark is given of either Excellent, Good, or Passing depending on the number of points scored.  If the reader scores below the minimum threshold then they are encouraged to go back and redo the chapter.

After passing all previous chapters with varying degrees of success I finally ran into a snag in the chapter on converting material advantages.

Interestingly it wasn’t that I didn’t correctly pass the test, it’s that I was having a hard time even finding ANY answers to the majority of the positions.

After trying to come up with solutions over three different sessions and only finding any possible ideas for around half of the positions I gave up and decided to simply read through the entire chapter again and then re-approach it with fresh eyes.

What makes this such an interesting subject to ponder is that unlike so many of the other chapters this one is far more esoteric in nature.  After all, if you fail the chapter on the opposition you can just study the opposition and work through the problem.  But this is so much more ethereal of a subject.

After all, I don’t have a problem in my own praxis with converting a material advantage.  So this comes down to more of an issue with planning and efficiency.

So that’s something else I should be working on when analyzing my own games.  Food for thought anyways.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Book Challenge Progress Report

We’re coming up on the conclusion of the first quarter of the book challenge, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at what has gone well and what could still use a lot more effort.

First, let’s look at the objective measure of the whole thing…rating.  Since the book challenge officially began on 2/11/17 my rating has essentially stayed flat.  In fact, if you look at my MSA page here you will see that in that time I have gone from 1804 to 1790 to 1801 to 1785 to 1801.

So actually I am down three points.  Not so much of a plus when you realize that my goal was to make 1925 by the end of the book challenge.

That, however, brings me to my next point, which is to ask this question: why has my rating pinballed within that narrow range over the past three months.  The most accurate answer is, I believe, the fact that I haven’t been playing enough.

Yes, I have been playing one club game each week, but that’s it.  In fact, in the last 12 months I have played only 50 regular rated games.  That’s not going to be enough to break away from the luck factor.

Let’s face it, it’s not farfetched at all for a club player to play either 200 points above or 200 points below their rating on any given night.  However, the more you play the more consistent you get, which stops the bouncing.  In the tournaments where I lost points I was inevitably held to a draw by, or had a loss to, a lower rated opponent while not managing to offset that with enough wins/draws against higher rated opposition.

So the first hope is that more events means more consistent performance.

The second hope for more events is that more games means more chances to work what I’m learning into my own praxis.  Of course that’s vital.  It’s one thing to esoterically acquire knowledge about a subject such as positional chess, but quite another to put that knowledge to practical use.

As far as the learning itself, I do feel that is coming along great.  My tactics and positional play have clearly gotten better as you can see by my last two posts.  So now I just have to keep that up and make sure that I continue to drive home new learning.

So what could use more work?  Two things in particular.  I need to keep working hardcore on board vision.  I’m hoping that continued work on tactics will eventually get the board vision where it needs to be.

I also, according to Yusupov’s book, need a lot more work on converting material advantages in the most efficient way possible.

OK, I’m exhausted.  It’s 7:12pm and I need to meet a friend at 2:15am to head up North for opening day of open water fishing season 2017.  Then back to my friends Gelfand and Yusupov for the rest of the weekend.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

Another Day, Another Tactic

Last night I played in the final round of an event at the Southwest Chess Club.  I played Jon Hildeman, and I believe that before this game my record against him was no wins, no losses, and two draws, although I’m not 100%

Once again I think that this win shows that my tactics have come a long way, and that more importantly they have done so hand in hand with my positional chess.

Notice how I provoke the …b6 and …c6 moves which weaken Black horribly, and from there the tactical shot presents itself.

My opponent did resign a bit prematurely though.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Tactimania Indeed

For those who have been following the publishers challenge, you will know that the book I have been reading to hone my tactics in Tactimania by Glenn Flear.

How has it been working?  Like this:

This is a game I played earlier tonight at the Waukesha Chess Club.  I am really proud of having found 24.Nh6

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A More Professional Approach

For a couple of years now I’ve been bouncing between 1750-1850 Elo.  Generally I manage to split the difference and dance around the 1800 mark, but if I’m going to break out of that I need to find a way to make that happen.

For the first four years of my return to chess I was gaining about 100 Elo per year on average.  I had wild swings of 150+ points at time, but generally everything was trending up.

The past two years, however, have been something else altogether.  So I took a step back and really looked at what I was doing in those four years, and what I’ve been doing for the past two, and did my best to evaluate the situation as a whole so I can decide where to go next.

The biggest realization that came from this exercise was realizing the main reason that I was gaining the rating I did from 2011-2015 was most likely just latent talent and had practically nothing to do with work.

What I mean by latent talent is that I hadn’t reached my full potential when I started to play as a kid.  My initial tournament career was from 1988-1992 and I was routinely gaining points during that entire time.  In fact, my last five tournaments from that time are included in my stats on the US Chess MSA page.  From November 1991 to March 1992 I went from 1461 to 1526.  I have no reason to believe that I wouldn’t have continued to grow at that pace for a while.

So when I came back to chess in 2011 there was still some room to grow on raw talent alone.  Yes, I worked to speed it along, but I didn’t necessarily have a professional enough approach to working.

If I was going to solve tactics I would often just grab a book and slouch down in a comfy chair and glance at the pages and just decide that since I thought X was the answer then X must be the answer.  No need to write things down or verify them, just take my decision as gospel.  The downside is that means that while I was probably right more often than not, there is no way to know how many of those problems I not only didn’t solve correctly but may have even reinforced bad habits with.

Lately my approach has been much more methodical.  Thanks to the Quality Chess Challenge I have focused on a much more solving heavy routine.  However, rather than simply glancing and deciding that I’m right I write everything down.  I then compare my answer to the one given, and I am very harsh on my grades.  If I got something mostly correct but not completely, then I’m considering the answer to simply be wrong.

When I take this approach I don’t sit in an overstuffed chair while I slouch and half watch TV/half solve problems.  Instead I fully commit and sit at a table where I can write.

The hope is that a professional approach will lead to professional results.  Time will tell in that arena.  In a future post I’ll lay out my plan to play in more events so that I can maximize my chance for improvement to be reflected in my rating.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott