Opening Blunder

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Believe it or not I’ve actually been working extremely hard on my openings. Mostly as Black, however.

So yesterday in an online rapid tournament organized by my friend GM Elshan Moradiabadi I found myself navigating through the opening by playing on autopilot.

In doing so we reached this position. Black to move and win a piece. I saw it instantly after my move and was just waiting to hit resign. Luckily my opponent didn’t see it.

My opponent was also playing on autopilot and so just played the automatic looking 7…Bb4

However, Black can win a piece with the simple 7…d4. If White moves the knight away then Black plays 8…Bb4 winning the queen.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Solid Planning Topalov-Sasikiran 1-0

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Here is an example in modern GM praxis where a long term plan presents itself. Granted, when the opportunity arises, Topalov turns the game into a bloodbath, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was running with a long term plan out of the gate.

Let’s look at this position first:

White has a nice space advantage and a target on c7. Black has counterplay only on the kingside. So what move would you play as White here?

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If you chose 15.Ba3 then congrats, you’re on the same track as Topalov was! The idea is to simply exchange off Black’s useful bishop on d6 for White’s worst placed piece. This is an example in using Aagaard’s three questions. Here all three questions sort of combine into one as White will be increasing Black’s weakness (question one) while interfering with Black’s plan of kingside counterplay (question two) while improving his worst placed piece by trading it (question three.)

Now after 15…Rc8 16.Bxd6 Black choses to recapture with 16…cxd6 as it’s really a “six of one, half a dozen of the other” type of position. Black’s options are to either create a permanently weak target on c7 by playing 16…Rxd6 or to play the move he did which will come with long term structural weaknesses of its own.

This takes us here:

Here is where Topalov says his plan is to exchange off the rooks, then put pressure on the d5 pawn with his light squared bishop and knights. Eventually on move 32 he sacs a knight to cause havoc in Sasikiran’s time pressure, but that’s just vintage Topalov at work.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Nice Way to Open the Center

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I was looking at this game from the 10th Soviet Championship and this position was reached between Makagonov and Kasparian with White to move.

It’s White to move, and in a position like this where Black seems determined to close down all the pawn breaks White needs to be active. Here, Makagonov finds a nice way to open the center and get his pieces active.

He plays 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17.d6!

With this he is able to gain activity and break through.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

When to Transition Janowski-Nimzovitch 1/2-1/2

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One of the keys to playing strength at any level is understanding when to transition from one idea to another.

Let’s take this game between David Janowski and Aron Nimzovich which was played in the St. Petersburg tournament of 1914.

For those who are fans of chess history you may recognize this as the tournament in which the title of Grandmaster was supposedly first conferred.

The tournament was held as a preliminary event with eleven players participating. The five top finishers in the prelim would then play a double round robin to determine the champion. In an interesting twist the results from the preliminary event would carry over into the final.

The prelims finished as such:

Here the five top finishers, Capablanca, Lasker, Tarrasch, Alekhine, and Marshall were supposedly awarded the title of Grandmaster by Tsar Nicolas II.

I say “supposedly” since this was completely debunked by chess historian Edward Winter. If you would like to read more about that please visit https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/grandmasters.html

The final finished with Lasker scoring an impressive seven points from eight, dropping half points only to Capablanca and Tarrasch.

Here are the final standings. It’s interesting to note that due to the carry over of the prelim scores, had Lasker finished the final with an only slightly less impressive six points from eight he would have finished behind Capa.

OK, now on the game that this post is about.

First, the entire game:

For some reason my pgn viewer isn’t working, so here is a link to the game on Chessgames.

As you can see, this was a hard fought draw.

Now, let’s get to the position at hand:

Here Janowski played 64.Rg1+ but as Kotov points out in his excellent book The Science of Strategy Janowski can win this. Take some time and think it through. We’ll then get back to it.

OK, scroll down for the answer…

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Had Janowski played 64.Kxb6 Kxe4 65.Kxc5 Kxf5 66.Kd6 then his pawns are much faster than Nizovich’s.

Have fun analyzing this ending. It’s fascinating!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Danger Was All in My Mind

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Sometimes we play a game and we think we’re getting crushed, then when we look at it later it turns out that there was never a “there there” for our opponent.

Here is one such game which I played in round four of the USATN in February.

First, my notes that I made directly after the game:

  • Don’t get rattled when your opponent is overusing time.
  • Pay attention to king safety.
  • Opposite colored bishops are great with initiative.
  • When you overlook a move, don’t panic.

Now,  here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Two GM’s, Three Blunders

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So I come across this position in a game between Christiansen and Oparin from the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup. Here it’s White to move.

White plays 65.Bc6 and I start trying to figure out why not just 65.Bxh3…what did I miss?! But of course there is nothing. After this move there is no way for Black to stop White from sacking the bishop for the remaining pawn, so the game is just drawn.

After 65.Bc6 we have this position:

Here 65…g4 wins, but Black plays 65…h2, which also wins. It seems to be a matter of just picking the win you want to play.

Then, after 66.Kd3 Black can still simply play …g4 and win, but instead he plays 66…Kg1 and White responds 67.Bd7, after which Black finally plays …g4 and goes on to promote, but winds up flagging and drawing.

But I kept coming back to the position after 66…Kg1. Something just didn’t look right.

After some experimenting I hit on the idea of 67.Ke3, and now White just has to shuffle the bishop back and forth to hold the draw. If Black promotes the h pawn White stops and wins the g pawn, and if Black pushes the g pawn then White will win it with Kf4. The engine seems to confirm this although I’m sure there are ways for Black to try some subtle tricks.

Granted, this was in a blitz endgame, but I would still think that taking on h3 would have been automatic!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

THIS is How You Play a Knight Ending!

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So I’m looking at some high level games in the Caro-Kann from this year and I see this game between Kulaots and Kuzubov from the Keres Memorial from January of this year, played in Tallin, Estonia.

First thing I notice is that after the 3.e5 Advance Variation

Kuzubov plays 3…Bf5 instead of the more modern 3…c5, which has been played by Nakamura among others.

After move 33 the following position is reached:

Now, I want you to be honest and tell me in the comments how long you think you would play on for if you were Black. You’re up a pawn, but all the pawns are on the same side. I know a lot of people would just agree to a draw here after playing perhaps a handful of moves and go home.

Three moves later and in this position White decides to trade rooks:

That leaves us with this position after each side has completed 37 moves:

Surely it’s time to go home now, right? Or is it…

Black now begins a series of long maneuvers seeking to gradually improve his position. I once heard Ben Finegold say in a lecture that one of the things that separates GM’s from everyone else is the willingness to just shuffle pieces waiting for their opponent to make a mistake.

It takes another  92 moves, but Black grinds White down.

Here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Ceci N’est Pas une Lune

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Many of you will hopefully be familiar with the Star Wars reference above.

In this case my opponent thought in a blitz game just now that he was trading pawns. Here’s the position a couple of moves prior:

Of course trading my a pawn for his c pawn does leave me with a passed pawn, so already I’m happy.

After 17.Bxc6 Bxa2 I now play 18.Ba4 to keep my opponents bishop off of b3. The problem with the bishop making it to b3 is that it controls d1 and therefore forces me to give up the d file.

My opponent here mistakenly plays 18…Bb3 anyway which loses a piece after 19.Bxb3.

My opponent seems to think it’s just a trade and so first exchanges rooks with 19…Rxd1 20.Rxd1 Rxb3

But of course I now play 21.Rd8+ Bf8 22.Bh6 and there’s no escaping the mate.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Two More Fun Attacking Games

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One of the nice things about learning openings by paying through games is that you get to see some amazing games you would never have otherwise looked at.

Here are two more fun attacking games from this morning. Enjoy!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Fun Game to Analyze

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Here is a game that I was just looking at in my opening studies. The game is from the 2017 Norwegian Chess Championship, won by Jan Ludwig Hammer.

In the game Black miscalculates 23…Qa7 and White wins two minors and a pawn for a rook. Afterwards he shows great technique in converting.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott