Stayin Alive

This morning Naka sent this tweet.

Clearly he was in good spirits as he prepared to battle Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista in the round two playoff in the FIDE World Cup, currently taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In the first game Hikaru got a nice enduring edge which he converted nicely although he did miss a shot in this position:

Here 21.Bxh6 is crushing.

In the second game the Cuban returned the favor by missing a shot of his own.

33.a5 creates threats which force concessions from Black due to the threat of cxb5 which would create a passed pawn.  There is a lot to be learned by analyzing this position in depth.

However, after 33.Rf3 the game was level and Hikaru was able to hold rather easily.

This draw secured entry into the third round and a matchup with Russian Super GM Fedoseev.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Room for Improvement

My last two tournaments have not been great.  I’ve managed to lose three games to improving juniors.

This has had the effect of dropping my rating around 40 points.  While I’m not that upset about the rating since ratings fluctuate, I am incredibly annoyed with the way I have played as I have thrown away promising positions quite often during this streak.

Yesterday I played a game which I hope is the start of a turnaround, although I still missed a huge opportunity and was lucky to get a second chance.

Here is the game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artemiev Joins the 2700 Club!

On the strength of his wins yesterday and today against Benjamin Bok in the Tbilisi World Cup, young Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev has finally cracked the ranks of the 2700 Club.

If you’ve been following my blogs for any length of time you know that I’m a big fan of his.  I’ve been following his career pretty closely for the last few years, so it’s nice to see him finally hit the magic number.

Here are the games:

Here is a good interview with Artemiev from last year documenting some of his struggles and triumphs.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

 

The Theme of the Next Five Days

Starting tomorrow I will play seven games over a five day period.  First, tomorrow I will have my regular Thursday night game.  Then, this weekend, I will play in the WI State Championship for the first time ever.

I’ve decided to use a technique that I have read about many times, which is the concept of focusing on one thing for a tournament and making that the central theme of the event.

My plan is to focus on targets.  I know that this is a weakness of mine.  I can recall GM Grivas telling me after beating me in a clock simul that the issue was that he had targets whereas I did not.

So each time I sit down at the board I am going to remind myself to look for targets, both for myself and for my opponent, on pretty much every move.

When I find a target for myself I am going to work out how to best isolate and attack it.  When I find a target for my opponent I am going to work out how to best defend it.

The idea with this singular focus tournament is that if you get to the point where you have begun to engage in whatever behavior you are looking to, then you are one step closer to becoming a stronger player.

I’ve been too focused on rating.  I need to let go of the rating aspect of things and just focus on my playing strength.  If I work on my strength then the rating will come.  I just have to trust in my abilities and have some faith in myself.

The truth is that my training has been going well lately.  I have been getting in some solid study time every day, and that should hopefully start paying off at some point.

So now I’m going to start working on my issues one by one.  Tournament by tournament.

I expect this approach to pay dividends in the very near term.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Me and Petrosian

One of the books that I have been reading lately is Python Strategy by the ninth world champion “Iron” Tigran Petrosian.

Quality Chess published an English language edition a year or two ago and in my opinion this book is solid gold.

There are a couple of reasons for that opinion.  The first is that generally I think that anything written by a world champion is worthy of attention.  The second is the fact that this book is simply amazing.

One thing that comes through loud and clear is that Petrosian wrote this book with the very clear purpose of it being instructional.  This book was meant to inspire the future generations of Soviet Bloc players who would inevitably replace him at the top of the mountain.

Contrast this with something like Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors which is useful to strong players, but not to average players looking to understand the game better in order to improve.

Thus, annotations in Python Strategy are variational where needed to whatever depth it takes to properly detail the position, and verbose where prosaic explanations serve to better illustrate a general point about the topic at hand.

Petrosian has long been one of my favorite players.  He has been unfairly saddled with the monikor of being “boring” or “drawish” but the reality is that he was such as solid defender that he saved a ton of poor positions and therefore just didn’t lose often.  He also, much like Karpov, refused to enter needless complications in order to create winning chances.

If he gained an advantage he would nurse it until he converted it.  If he was in a level position he would simply make sure that first and foremost he was playing in as risk free a manner as possible.

In my opinion those who say that Petrosian’s was simply a draw master and pretty much the same as those who say the same about Anish Giri today.

If Petrosian were simply a draw master he never would have become world champion, the same as Giri would never have made it over 2800.

Another reason that Petrosian inspires me is that on many levels I try to model my play on his own.  I enjoy positional, maneuvering games when they arise, but I also work on my tactics and attacking abilities so that when presented with a chance I can take it.

Here is a game of Petrosian’s in which the young Armenian demolishes  the legendary Paul Keres with a piece sacrifice.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Fascinating Position

Here is a position from my game Thursday night.  I am White and it’s my move.

So here I see this tactical idea and I calculate 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Qxd5 and now the rook on c8 is lost unless Black gives up the knight with 12…Nc6.  I now realize that after 13.Qxc6 my queen and Black’s queen are both on the sixth rank and – oh no – 13…Bb4+ unleashes a discovered attack on my queen would cost me the game.

So I make a different move then I realize that I missed a key aspect of the position, which is that my thirteenth move is not 13.Qxc6, but 13.Qxc6+

Since this would also pick off the rook this tells me at the time that clearly this was the way to play and that I missed something major.

So I spend the next few moves of the game annoyed for missing something “obvious” in the position.  Fast forward to today.  I start looking at the position again and something just doesn’t look quite right.

I start moving pieces around and something just isn’t adding up, but I can’t quite find it.  As I had just read a piece by Jacob Aagaard explaining that if you’re going to use an engine you need to use it in such a manner as to let yourself discover the reason certain moves are good or bad rather than just the fact that they are good or bad I turn on the engine after Black’s ninth move …b6, which gives us the position we first looked at:

The engine is insisting that this position is equal.  “Well, OK” I think…”10…Qxf6 isn’t forced.  After all, Black can play 10…gxf6.”

Nope, that position the engine shows as much better for White.  So I follow the line closely until we get to this position:

Here Black has an amazing trap in the position.  First he plays 12…0-0, then after 13.Qxa8 Nc6 14.Qb7 Rb8 the engine is screaming that 15.Qxc6 is the least bad of the options although Black will pick up the Queen after 15…Bb4+ 16.Qc3 Bxc3+ 17.bxc3:

Here White is up the equivalent of a pawn, but Black’s position is so much better than the computer shows the position to be about -1.2 in Black’s favor.

“Yeah, but why is 15.Qxc6 considered best?” I ask myself.  After all, White can save the queen with 15.Qa6.  Now we reach the most critical part of the position, this:

Black now slams shut the jaws of their trap with 15…Nb4.  Not only does this threaten the queen on a6, but at the same time it also threatens the fork 16…Nc2+

So all in all an amazing position which teaches the analyst to always keep looking for resources.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Dog and Pony Show

Typically that’s how I think of opening/closing ceremonies, and to some extent press conferences in the world of chess.

Generally you assume that nothing too exciting is going to happen, so why bother even trying to score an invite.  You can plan on hearing the same accolades and the same platitudes so what’s the point?

However, for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz my feelings are pretty much the polar opposite of that.  Why?  A few reasons.  First, the CCSCSL typically puts on a pretty good event with these.  Who can forget Caruana’s answer to what he was going to do with his prize money in 2015 when he replied “Yeah, I think I’d buy a goat. I think I could afford it with the money I earned, and this goat I think could see tactics better than me.”

Second, Maurice Ashley is a pretty good MC for these types of events.  He has a wicked sense of humor and is able to hold his own in the quip department.  He also has a sense of passion and enthusiasm for chess which easily comes across when he speaks.

Lastly, and let’s face it, far more important that anything else that could be mentioned, the return of Garry Kasparov was the main driving force for my desire to attend this event.

So I applied for media credentials and was initially told that the event was completely invite only.  I then was told by one of the players not to worry, that I would be going with him, so I figured I was in.  Then the club re-contacted me to clarify that they were allowing all media members who wanted in to attend so they would put me on the list.

So I went and I have to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all before the event began I was able to chat with Czech GM David Navara.  I told him that I visited Prague last year when I played on the Chess Train and that I can’t wait to go back some day and see the city again, hopefully with more time to enjoy the sights.

He said it was his first time in the US and that he hopes that it’s not his last.  He seemed quite excited to be in the States for this event.

I was also able to talk with recently retired NFL player John Urschel who is visiting with his friend GM Robert Hess.  John seems like a genuinely nice guy.  I had a chance to talk with him a bit at the chess house on Friday night and his love of the game and desire to play more shines through when he speaks.

All of this while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and some hors d’oeuvres that were being circulated by the friendly wait staff.

Then it was time for the ceremony itself to begin.  You can watch it here.  Skip ahead to the 27:35 mark for the actual beginning of the event.  Some highlights included Hikaru getting in a little trash talk on Garry (who responded in kind!) and Rex and Maurice digging at each other a bit.

So far this trip has been amazing.  Tomorrow is my final day, and I’m expecting it to be exciting as I will get to see Nakamura – Kasparov in round two!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

I Was Able to Play a Game in St. Louis

Friday I was hanging around the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis with my friend Glenn Panner when the opportunity to schedule a game against one of the local kids came up.

One of the Junior SPICE members, Ben, was sitting at a rating of 1995.  His mother was trying to find a game for him in hopes that he could get over 2000 and get that pressure off of him.

I agreed to play him Saturday night at the club when nothing else was going on.  The conditions were perfect since the club has amazing lighting and we were playing with an elegant wood set on one of the beautiful chess tables the club has.  (Side note – I once looked up those tables and they cost almost $5000 each…though I’m sure if you buy them in bulk as the club does you probably get a discount!)

The agreed time control was G/90+30 and Ben and I wound up having the entire second floor of the club to ourselves.  The only spectators were a friend of Ben who came to look at the game and WGM Anna Sharevich who took a look at the position and then went back downstairs to give her evaluation to Ben’s mother who was curious.  Anna’s eval…totally even.

The only other interruption was equal parts amusing and annoying.  The closing ceremony for the Sinquefield Cup was taking place across the street at the same time and one of the guys from the tech crew came upstairs at one point to lower a needed cable to someone below.  He opened the window and then got into a relatively loud discussion with whomever he was lowering the cable to.  I don’t know what an “S loop” is, but it was something he clearly didn’t think was a good idea to have!

Luckily this only went on for a minute or two and didn’t seem to disturb Ben too much. It happened pretty much equally on my time vs. his.

As for the game itself, it was a hard fought battle until I blundered the exchange although the reason I did so is instructive in and of itself.

Here is the game in it’s entirety.  Thanks to Ben and his mother Stephanie for the opportunity to play this exciting game!  Also, congratulations to Ben who it looks like will be an expert once this is rated!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

It’s That Time Once Again – Sinquefield Cup

Well, it’s time once again for my semi-annual pilgrimage to the Central West End of Saint Louis.

I more or less come here each year for both the US Championships and for the Sinquefield Cup.  I say more or less since I have missed one of each since 2013.

I sit here typing this having just gotten back from enjoying a nice sushi dinner at the Drunken Fish after watching Round Eight of the Cup, which is the first of the two I am here for.

For the US Championships I tend to come for the final three rounds, but for Sinquefield there’s a dance that needs to be done.  If you come for the final rounds you see the best action but if you come for the beginning you get to go to the autograph session where you can get stuff signed by all of the players.

I have boards signed by all participants from both the inaugural 2013 edition and the 2015 tournament as well.  Also, the picture I use for masthead of this site is from Sinquefield 2013.

Well this time the choice was easy and I decided to come for the final two rounds of the Cup, since two days later a rapid and blitz event starts and Garry Kasparov is coming out of retirement to play in that event.  It will be his first rated event in 12 years.

There will be an autograph session this Sunday featuring Kasparov so of course I decided to attend the final few rounds of the Cup so I can fit that autograph session in to my schedule!

So the plan as it sits now is:

Friday: Going to Webster in the morning.  Haven’t made it out the last couple of times I’ve been here to see Paul and Susan, so I’m making a point to go this time.

In the afternoon I’ll head back to catch the final round of the Cup.

Saturday: This is the true off day.  I’ll probably spend the first few hours of the day recovering from the Friday night after party.  After that it will be time to go for a long walk in Forest Park, and then try to finish an article I’m working on for Chess Life.

Sunday: Afternoon will be the autograph session.  I am really looking forward to getting a board signed by Garry Kasparov.  It’s hard to describe how excited I am about this.  Kasparov was my boyhood hero and I never would have ever thought that I would get a chance to watch him play since the Soviet Union was such a foreboding place.

Evening is the cocktail reception and press conference.  I originally tried to RSVP as media by virtue of my position as Associate Editor with American Chess Magazine and was denied as I was told it was invite only.  I was then invited by one of the players who I am friends with, only to then have the club contact me back and tell me that they will put me on the list as they are inviting all media who are requesting to go.

So either way I’m going, lol.

Monday will be day one of the rapid portion of the Rapid and Blitz.  I’ll be here for those rounds and then heading home afterwards.

So all in all a fun few days!  If YOU haven’t come to check out an event at the St. Louis Chess Club you have no one to blame but yourself!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

MVL – So 1-0 To Start Sinquefield

The Sinquefield Cup kicked off today, and there were three winners right out of the gate with Aronian defeating Nepomniatchtchi, Karjakin taking advantage of a Svidler implosion, and the game I’m talking about here, which saw Wesley lose to MVL.

The game was the 6.a4 Italian, which seems to be surging in popularity these days.

In fact, at the Olympiad in 2016 Wesley won a very nice game in this same opening against Nepo.  That game went like this:

Perhaps fearing Maxime’s prep, Wesley chose to play 8…h6 instead of 8…Ba7.

Then, on his 40th move Wesley missed 40…Kf6 and instead put his king on d8 which saw the Frenchman quickly bring home the full point.

Hopefully the number of wins in this round sets the tone for the rest of the event.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott