The Power of the Bishop Pair

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.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

New Training Schedule

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:

Monday: Yusupov

Tuesday: Yusupov

Wednesday: Openings

Thursday: Entering My Game From That Night Into Chessbase

Friday: Game Analysis

Saturday: Endgames

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!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Great Illustration of Wrongful Thinking

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.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Round One of the Southwest Chess Club Championship

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.

So 1-0 to start with five rounds to go.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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