Don’t Be Too Dogmatic

Here is a position from a blitz game I just played.  After all the grief yesterday about cramped positions, here I decide to be overly dogmatic.

My opponent has just played 15.Ng5 and I never really gave serious consideration to taking the knight.

Why?  Because somewhere in the back of my mind it’s ingrained that when you have the bishop pair you should keep it.

Yet if I just take, playing 15…Bxg5 16.fxg5 Nf7 then my position is fine.

As beginners we learn all these “rules” about chess.  Strong players know when to ignore those rules.

Time to get back to work!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Some Fun Photos Over The Years

Here are some fun photos from the past couple of years.

This on was from a late night party at the St. Louis Chess Club after the final round of the Sinquefield Cup 2016.  GM Priyadharshan Kannappan was playing blitz with MVL.

In 2017 it was no longer necessary to wait until the club closed at night to cut loose.  This is at one of the chess houses the club owns and was taken after the final night of the 2017 US Championships.  Don’t worry, Mesgen isn’t drinking all of those drinks by himself!

Later that year, after the end of Sinquefield Cup 2017 Naka and Eric Hansen were playing some blitz.  Here Aronian has just come and asked Eric to move so that he could get in on the action.

One of the more impressive things I’ve seen.  Here Hikaru is playing Robert Hess at 1-5 time odds (Hikaru has one minute to Hess’s five).  Also after Sinquefield 2017.  They played until around 5:00 in the morning.  I left around 4:00 and heard from Hikaru the next day that after all was said and done they finished on an even score!

Eric Hansen had to catch a flight for Spain early that morning, but stayed all night to watch this, giving himself just enough time to get to the airport.  He later said that watching this inspired him and has made him play faster in OTB blitz games.

The night before the final round of the 2018 US Championships.  Former lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and current PhD candidate at MIT John Urschel is getting an informal lesson from IM Eric Rosen.

More Hansen and Naka blitz.  This is the next night after the Championships are over.  Eric really likes to play Hikaru even though he knows that he’s mostly just “food” in these situations.  He is playing on his knees because he just really wants to play.  After a few games like this we found him a chair.

Funny story, if you look to the left of Eric’s glass you’ll see a xiangqi piece.  Two black pawns were missing so Yasser grabbed a couple of pieces out of the xiangqi set.  What makes it really funny is that later than night we learned that there were ten spare sets in one of the closets!

I am so grateful to the chess world for allowing me to have some of these experiences.

I’ve made so many friends and had a lot of fun over the years.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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.

The Deeper Purpose of Tactics

Why do we study tactics?  Is it so we can spot mistakes and win material?

Sure, that’s a part of it.  But only a part.

There are much deeper purposes.  For instance, let’s take a position from my blitz game we just looked at in the last post…

Seeing tactical patterns helps with strategic ideas, like knowing I can ignore the threat of 22.Qe7 since after 22…Qx37 23.Rxe7 I play 23…Bf6 and win material.

It’s also for a position like this.  You’re White in an OTB American tournament and you have two seconds on your clock so all you have to play on here is your five second delay.

Knowing tactical patterns well will let you keep from putting your king on the same color square as your queen pretty much without thinking, taking away any chance of a knight fork by your opponent regardless of how little time you have.

This is why tactics are so important in chess.  Even when they don’t appear on the board, they exist within the variations, to paraphrase Alexei Shirov.

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.

It’s Never Quite as Bleak as it Seems

I just finished playing a blitz game which seems fairly instructive.

First, let’s look at the whole game:

Now, let’s break this down into some components…

Here is a position coming out of the opening.  It’s Black to move…

Here I felt like I was extremely cramped.  Like I *must* exchange on d5 *or else* – I’m sure you all know the feeling I’m speaking of.

But it’s not really that bad.  In fact, if I can get the dark square bishops off the board and play …e5 then I’m not nearly as cramped as I was before.

For instance…

11…Ng4 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.h3 Nge5 14.Bc2 Nxf3+ 15.Nxf3 e5

OK, White appears to be better here, but this position seems much easier to play.  Key word here though is “seems.”

A few moves later in this position I become desperate to reroute my pieces and I play 14…Bc8.

The problem is that White can swap off a pair of rooks and grab the e-file in a way that really cramps me with:

15.Rxe8+ Nxe8 16.Re1 Nef6 17.h3 and here my pieces are restricted and I’m going to struggle a bit.

My opponent doesn’t see this, and a few moves later we have this on the board:

At this point I’m seeing ghosts.  I play 20…a6 trying to get some counterplay going on the queenside, but the reality is that I have a simple way of eliminating what I am perceiving as the threat of Qe7.  I can just play 20…Nd7, then if 21.Qe7 I force the queen back with 21…Bf6

The problem is that 20…a6 is too slow.  Here they can play 21.Qe7 and now 21…Nd7 no longer works because I’ll never get …Bf6 is, ala 22.Ng5 Rf8 and now there are sacrificial ideas on h5:

Instead my opponent plays 21.Ng5 and here I decide that since I’m in such desperate straits I’m going to lash out and try to regroup, so I play 21…h6 22.Nf3 g5 and here the mouse slip happens.  However, this position is dead won for White.

Either 23.Nf5 or better yet 23.h4 should lead to a quick demise.

But there’s a problem here…let’s go back to this position which we just saw…

I can just play 21…Rb8 and now e7 is tactically protected.  If 22.Qe7 then 22…Qxe7 23.Rxe7 Bf6 wins.

More to the point, after 21…Rb8 I can play …b5 soon and get some actual counterplay going.

The moral of the story?  Had I not been feeling like my position was garbage for the last several moves I would have been more objective and not felt the need to lash out in perceived desperation.

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.

 

A Game to be Proud Of

This past Thursday at the Southwest Chess Club I finally played a game I feel that I can be proud of.

Perhaps this is a sign that things are turning around as my strategic play was off the charts in this game compared to how I normally play, and for me that’s been such as rare thing.

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.

Interesting Position

Here is the final position from a blitz game I just played on lichess.org

My opponent had 20.6 seconds left but flagged in this position.

What’s interesting about it is that it looked to me like White should be easily winning.  After all, he should be able to pick up my b pawn pretty much any time he likes.  Then doesn’t the a pawn just race down the board?

Well…not so fast.  Rudimentary analysis shows that after 44.Kf3 (or other squares) I can just play 44…Rxg2 and the rook can’t be taken as my bishop would fork on e4.

This means that I should also win the h pawn as well.

There is a lot of counterplay in this position.  So again, it’s quite important to look at these games, even if only for a few seconds, after you win them.

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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Nice Tactic

These types of tactics have traditionally not been so easy for me to solve.  It all comes down to my board vision issue.

So hopefully the fact that I got this one very quickly is a sign that some work is starting to pay off!

Scroll down to the bottom for the solution.

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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Solution: 1.Nb5+ cxb5 2.Nb7#

The Blindness…It Burns!

As I mentioned the other day, it’s really important to analyze your blitz games, at least superficially.

So take this position for instance…

Pretty easy to see what the best move is in the position, right?

So why did I leave the queen hanging for so many moves?  It’s a board vision issue.  I’ve been working on this for a while now, and clearly I still have some work to do.

Here’s the entire game.  While I feel that overall my play was pretty good (especially since I’m horrible at blitz) I also know that I can’t go away thinking I did well here.

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.

Tactics With a Grain of Salt

One thing that I think is important to remember when working on chess is that while things like accuracy do matter, it’s also important to take them with the occasional grain of salt.

For instance, look at this puzzle.

It’s white to move and it’s mate in two.

Now, the correct answer is at the bottom of the page below the Patreon info.  Scroll down when you would like to see it.

Now, when I initially solve the puzzle I solved it as 1.Rb3 g3 2.Rd3 (or lots of other third rank squares) g2 3.Rh3# (For some unknown reason my brain was saying this was a mate in four, not three…who knows why…)

So here’s the thing…technically my answer was “wrong” and would be considered a fail on any tactics app, etc.  But in reality since the entire line was forced it’s important to remember that this solution would work from a practical standpoint in a 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.

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1.Rb4 g3 2.Kf5#

Giri Is a Fighter

Yeah, yeah…Giri + Any Opponent = Draw.

I’ve heard it all before a thousand times.  And sure, in the 2016 Candidates tournament he completed the Full Giri and drew all of his games.  But his play tends to run anything but lifeless.

Here’s an excellent game from back in January at Wijk.  I particularly enjoy the way he plays this opening.  It’s rare to see any of the non-g3 lines in the English these days.

This game is a strategic masterpiece.

Here’s a nice video made by Agadmator.  If you’re not familiar with him you would do well to subscribe to his YouTube channel.  His videos are always entertaining and instructive.

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.