A Blitz Game Inspired by Neal Bruce

For those who aren’t aware of Neal, he’s a guy who’s pretty active on Twitter and Facebook and takes his chess improvement quite seriously.

I don’t know him at all other than some online interactions, but he’s been posting a lot of tactics puzzles and some tactics from his blitz games recently.

This game which I just played seems like exactly the kind of thing he’s been looking at lately.

This one’s for you Neal…

I was quite proud of the fact that I instantly saw that …b5 was a mistake that could be easily capitalized on.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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The World Championship is Boring!

I have heard this argument from numerous chess fans over the years.  The current format of the world championship is “boring” because “everyone knows” that the players will just “play for draws.”

These discussions always devolve into some sort of “How can the players be made to play more interesting chess?” discussions.

Simultaneously with that there are discussions about women’s chess.  How “everyone knows” that “those games just aren’t as good” etc.

Ten days ago the Women’s world championship began in Shanghai.  I felt like I was one of maybe 1% of chess fans who knew this match was taking place or cared about it.

Then I see my friend Sabina tweet this.

And she’s absolutely right.  Because truth be told, the handful of discussions I have seen about this match have mostly been “box score” style tweets/posts/etc. pointing out the results of the most recent game.

Sadly, some of the discussions I have seen have focused solely on the ratings of the players, with one person saying that “This match is getting exactly the attention you would expect in a contest between the 399th and 732nd ranked players in the world.”

Here’s the problem with all of this…

First, this is a world championship.  Therefore, by definition it matters.

Next, if someone is going to complain that the World Championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin was boring because there were too many draws then perhaps they should open their eyes and look at this match.  In the seven games completed so far there have been two draws.  Two.

(above graphic from www.theweekinchess.com)

The quality of the games has been good.

Game One saw a long attempt at pressing an ending that fizzled out into a draw.

Game Two seen Ju sac a pawn for great initiative that she smashes through and converts.  I suspect that the pgn file for this game is wrong since 56…Rc1+ wins easily.  It’s hard to believe that Ju missed this and that Tan would then miss the draw after 57.Rxd1.

In Game Three Ju took a 2-0 lead in the match with an absolute crush.  Tan played 14…g5 which seems quite silly with the king in the center and no real way to bring pressure on White’s kingside.

Down two games, the World Champion strikes back.  After a relatively unambitious opening (some sort of Torre/Colle thing…don’t ask me, I’m not an openings expert!) Tan gets a little pressure building on the kingside when Ju overextends herself.  Tan first cracks open the kingside and then finishes the game off with a beautiful queen sac.

In the last game to the played in Shanghai (the match is split with the first five games in Shanghai and the final five in Chongqing) the champion decides to again attempt an unambitious opening (this time the Bishop’s Opening) but the challenger again moves her lead out to two points at 3-1 by first building up a strong center and then showing some excellent technique in converting it.

In the first game in Chongqing the champion again brings home the full point, this time in a 125 move marathon.  Pay attention to the beautiful idea with 26…c4.  I like how Tan gets rid of her own potential backwards c pawn target in a way that forces Ju to either cripple her own structure to “win” the pawn which she will likely lose back eventually and then be faced with a dangerous looking queenside majority or to play as she did and simply give back the pawn immediately.

Now Tan has left Ju without a target and at the same time forced her to air out her king a little bit.

After then winning a pawn and getting rooks off the board Tan shows why she’s a champion by patiently converting a queen ending.

Game Seven was a draw that never really got off the ground too much.  I would imagine the players were exhausted after the Game Six battle.

So there you have it.  A match which has been anything but boring that seems likely to conclude in a quite exciting finish!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Dominguez to the USA?

Somewhere around a year or so ago I heard that top Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez was going to switch federations to the USA.

While I was hearing this from a very reliable source it seemed to be rather surreal.  After all, So had just switched to the USA a couple of years earlier  and Caruana had just come home a while after that.

Could we really be on the verge of landing another super GM?

As was pointed out to me, however “You’ll notice he’s not playing in any FIDE events.”  I realized that was true.

Part of switching federations is a two year absence from competing in FIDE events.  So no World Cup, Olympiad, Grand Prix, etc.

As I had been asked not to say anything I have been sitting on this news for some time.  However, just the other day Emil Sutovsky mentioned this in a post on Jacob Aagaard’s Facebook page.

So with the cat finding the entrance to the bag I suppose it’s time to say something.

What an exciting time this is for American chess.  If Dominguez is actually transferring and is able to complete his transfer in time then presumably the US could have five 2700 players on our Olympiad squad!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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Even Blitz Games Are Important

One thing I was told a long time ago is that it’s important to even review your blitz games.  To at least look at them quickly with an engine to see where the huge swings are and then to analyze those swings.

The idea is to figure out what you saw and what you missed and how you properly or improperly evaluated certain positions.

Immediately after playing this game my impression was that I won quite easily with a devastating attack.  I sacked some material and then quickly overwhelmed my opponent on the kingside.

But then I pulled up the pgn to take a quick look at it with an engine and the truth is that I completely misplayed this game.

Interestingly this is the same theme that just caused me to have such as terribly tournament.  I rushed rather than building up small advantages.

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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Worst Tournament of My Life

I just finished the worst tournament of my life.  Going 1-3 with all games played against lower rated players I managed in the course of one event to shed around 70 rating points, dropping all the way down into the 1650’s!

There are two good takeaways from it however.

The first is that it’s over!  At least I can’t lose any more games in the one.

The second is that in all three losses I had good positions, including an almost winning position on the white side of the Dragon in one, and then lost because I rushed.

Rather than taking time and increasing the pressure on my opponent I tried to force things instantly and went for knockout blows that just weren’t there.

While I’m being somewhat glib about the first takeaway, the second gives me something to work on.  I need to work on technique.  I need to go through some well annotated wins and especially some strategic crushes to really learn to work on the continued accumulation of advantages in better positions.

I’ll have some positions from the games I played annotated and will post them at some point in the near future.

While I’m not happy with my results at all, I’m also not overly upset as I’ve done this twice before where I’ve had massive 150+ point ratings swings in a short period of time in either direction.

So I know I can dig my way out of this.

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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Rethinking an Endgame Idea

Lately I have been working through Jonathan Hawkins’ excellent book From Amateur to IM which discusses how through learning certain endings very well the author went from around 2000 to an IM.  He’s now a strong GM so improvement has continued to this day.

In one of the chapters he gives this position:

Here he invites the reader to place a black bishop anywhere you’d like on the board.  If you’re like me you probably were immediately drawn to the d4 square.

After all, doesn’t that look strong?  The bishop and the pawn protecting one another…surely that’s the best setup possible, right?

Well, as it turns out, no.  With the bishop on the same color square as the pawn the plan for White becomes to maneuver until you can exchange the rook for the bishop and pawn and transition into a won king and pawn ending.

When the bishop is on the color other than the pawn then the bishop and the pawn complement one another by attacking different color squares and it becomes possible to hold.

I invite the reader to try it for themselves with these two positions against an engine or a friend.

Loss

Draw

Now if faced with a position such as this you would know what to play if you had this position.

If you were White and it was your move you’d know to play d4.  If you were Black and it were your move you’d know that you would need to get …d4 in so you’d play …Kc5 in order to be able to make …d4 unstoppable.

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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Zviad is My Spirit Animal

For the last several days I haven’t posted.  That’s because I’ve been in St. Louis at the US Championships.

At one of the late night parties at the chess house I met Zviad Izoria, and let me tell you, he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve met in the chess world!  I was actually able to hang out with him on two separate nights and had an absolute blast both times.

A couple of classics from him:

“_____, if you’re mad, don’t hit ____, hit me.  Or better yet, hit Chris!”

Then, later that evening when he was leaving he said to me “It was a good day at the office, neither of us got punched!”

Meanwhile he made quite the sensation on the board as well.  He scored two wins in the event, one against Hikaru Nakamura, and one against newly minted world championship challenger Fabiano Caruana.

His win over Fabi came with the black bits in round four.  They were in a level endgame when Caruana blundered.  Zviad then converted with precision.

Three rounds later in his game against Hikaru he technically won on time as Naka flagged, but he had a won position over the board already.

So it looks like he had some good days at the office at the board as well!

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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Heartbreaking Loss

With the US Championships getting up to full speed I was watching some of the games today.  One that I was keeping an eye on was between the up and coming Jennifer Yu and the defending US Women’s Champion Sabina Foiser.

It had been a fairly level game all day, and this position was reached

It’s Black to move.  With Black’s king where it is, the ideal plan would be to exchange pawns and then Black should be able to hold quite easily.

But it’s not easy to exchange pawns.  And of course it looks like White can put her king on h4 and then how can Black save the pawn?  With two connected passed pawns the win becomes trivial for White.

So here Sabina played 53…h4+?? and was lost after 54.Kh3.

However, in the original position Black can play 53…Rb1, and now if White tries to win the h pawn with 54.Kh4 Black simply plays 54…Rh1+ 55.Kg3 Rf1 and that should be enough to hold.

Chess is brutal sometimes.  Caissa giveth, and Caissa taketh away.

Here’s hoping that Sabina rebounds tomorrow.

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 Fun Endgame Position to Analyze

I am starting to read GM Jonathan Hawkins’ book From Amateur to IM in which he details how he went from a club player of approximately 2000 Elo to an IM with two GM norms (and of course has been a GM for a few years now) in a span of around eight years.

Spoiler alert…he did it by learning endgames very deeply.

One of the positions from the second lesson, “A Short Introduction to Planning in the Endgame” is this one between Bent Larsen and Slavoljub Marjanovic from the Bled/Portoroz Interzonal in 1979.

Here it’s white to move.  In walking the reader through the plans for each side Hawkins makes it clear that White would like to play h5 since that will damage the Black structure in a way which will both create better squares for his knights while also loosening up the Black king a bit.

He also makes it clear that if Black plays …h5 then White’s job gets much harder.

However, there is a problem with the immediate 58.h5 for White.  That would allow Black to play 58…Ra3 and then 59…Rb7 which would likely force an exchange of rooks, and any exchange of rooks would greatly favor Black as he would be the only one left with a major piece.

So Larsen plays 58.Rd5

Here the Let’s Check feature in Chessbase shows that pretty much every engine that’s ever analyzed deeply prefers 58…h5, but instead Marjanovic played 58…R4a6.  Eventually he lost the game.

The positions after either 58.h5

Or 58.Rd5 h5

Both of these are quite useful to analyze.  I encourage you to do so!

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.

An Update on What I’ve Been Up To

I managed to go a month without posting anything until just a few days ago.  So what was I doing with my time?

As it turns out, there were a couple of things that I was up to.

The first is that I am working on doing more organizing.  Tournaments don’t organize themselves, so I am working on becoming a better organizer and TD.

Second, I have been getting back in the swing of writing.  As I write a regular column in American Chess Magazine I do spend a bit of my time there.

Mostly though, what I’ve been doing is working hard on openings.  Yes, you  read that right…I’m working on openings.

I’ve changed my repertoire a few times over the years, and I went from 1.e4 to 1.d4 to 1.c4 to 1.Nf3.

Now I think I’ve settled on what I want to play going forward.  You’ll see me start to post some games and you’ll figure it out pretty quick.  One thing I did though is I took a look at what I was doing during the times I was gaining the most rating, and I decided to place the focus there.

I expect that as always I will get some terrible positions as I retool my openings, but the main difference is that when I’ve changed my repertoire in the past I’ve never bothered learning it deeply.  Now I am.

So we’ll see where all this leads, but I, for one, am excited.

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.