Ljubojevic – Miles Tilburg 1985 0-1

I just heard Ljubomir Ljubojevic refer to this game while commentating at Shamkir.  What great technique by Miles.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Deliberately Practicing Deliberate Practice

Something I have written about before is the concept of deliberate practice.

Intellectually I could speak about it at great length, but right now I’m more focused on the pragmatic aspects.  Specifically my current training regime which primarily involves books by Quality Chess and analysis of my own games.

I’ve read many different articles and blog posts which say that one of the most important aspects of trying to improve is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing.  This often comes in the form of advice to “study whatever you feel like today” with little thought given to the overall methodology of the approach itself.

The problem that I have started to have with that way of thinking is that it is in direct conflict with a saying I saw Jacob Aagaard repeat in his Calculation book in the GM Prep series.  That saying is “Improvement begins on the edge of your comfort zone.”  My apologies to the originator of that statement, but I cannot recall whom Jacob attributes it to.

Those two statements can not coexist.  One or the other can be correct, but not both.  So it’s time for me to decide which direction is right for me.

The truth is that I have been going in the first direction for quite some time.  I do what I want when I want how I want with little regard to the overall curriculum.  It’s time to change.

Deliberate is the most important part of the phrase deliberate practice.  Many things are practice, few of them are deliberate.

So with that in mind my new program needs to be heavy on solving.  The fact is that typically I get involved in some solving and then I get tired of it.  I slip into the laziness so many chess players experience and I don’t want to spend an hour or two solving hard problems that make my head hurt.  I’d rather just play through some games.

Then I start playing through some games but come to a section where there are two pages of analysis on just one or two moves, so I justify skipping over them by repeating the bit about having to enjoy the things I’m studying.

Before too long I’ve spent some time shuffling wood, but not really learning in a proper environment.

So here is how the change will occur.  My plan now will be this:

  • Solving one page (six problems) from Glenn Flear’s book Tactimania as a warm up.  This is literally just to prime the pump.  Nothing more.
  • Working through a chapter of Yusupov.  Exercises, variations, everything.
  • With whatever time is left I will play through a ton of GM games in my database of whatever opening I am working on at the time.
  • After three days in a row of Yusupov I will switch and allow myself a chapter of something else.  Romanovsky, Gelfand, etc.
  • One day per week the session will consist of one hour of Tactimania followed by analysis of my own games.  Typically the one I played that same week.

I feel reasonably confident that I may not like everything I outlined above since it’s work, but I will do it and I imagine I will begin to see real improvement.

Now, off to Yusupov!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Bhattacharyya, R – Wainscott 0-1

This past Thursday the great 1…e5 experiment continued in a game against Rishav Bhattacharyya.

My personal philosophy when it comes to playing kids is that it’s important to run up a huge score against them when you still can, because as they get older (and much better than you!) it’s surprising how often they will also remain slightly afraid of you and you can score some points and half points that you might not otherwise be able to.

I’m annoyed with my inaccuracy in the opening and with my horrendous move that threw away my advantage almost completely at the end.  Other than that I’m relatively pleased with my play.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Just Back From the US Championships

First of all, let me begin by saying congratulations to both first time champions, Wesley So and Sabina Foiser.

I know it’s been a while since I was able to write any updates here on anything, but I’ve been away.

Some memories I will take with me for some time to come…

Meeting not only Sabina, but also her fiancé, Elshan Moradi Abadi.  What a great guy (not to mention strong GM!) he is.  I was fortunate to have a drink with them on Sunday night as she was celebrating her victory.

The Sunday night get together at the Chess House.  It was fun to see everyone socializing and getting some bughouse/blitz action going.  Not only do the players and commentators get together, but there are always a dozen or so other titled players in the form of seconds, journalists, visitors, etc.  I had a wonderful time getting to hang out with folks like Hikaru and Yasser and the gang.

Eric Hansen.  This guy really delivers on the “Canadians are nice people” stereotype.  He’s a damn fine commentator who seems to have a very bright future both behind the commentary desk and over the board.  I promise you I will be rooting for the Montreal Chessbrahs in 2018!

A Taste of Lebanon.  Great restaurant in the Central West End.  It’s been there forever but this was the first time that I ate there.  I highly recommend the falafel and the spicy potatoes.

Gata Kamsky.  What can possibly be said about this guy that hasn’t already been said a million times over.  We have a good friend in common and so I have been lucky enough to spend a little time around Gata.  He’s always an interesting conversationalist.

The Saint Louis Chess Campus.  OK, at this point I’ve been there numerous times over several years, but really, it can’t be said enough…this is a great place for chess fans to be.

Now I have a couple of articles to work on for various topics.  One for Chess Life Online and another for American Chess Magazine.  So it’s back to the grind.

While gone I did some work on chess as there was a lot of live analysis between friends and I at the US Championships, along with solving some tactics.

Tonight I also get back to work on some Quality Chess books to get back on that horse as well.  I have a new tournament starting in two days.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Centralization and You

OK, not you…me.  Centralization and me.  My understanding seems to be the same as trying to combine oil and water.  I can swish it around as much as I want, but I can’t get it to mesh.

I say this based off of my performance in the chapter on centralization in the first Yusupov book.  OK, on the one hand I scored 12 points, which is the minimum passing grade.  So that’s something.  On the other hand, this is a concept that I struggle with.

So how to fix it?  How can I go from oil and water to just pure water?

Well, it seems like this one is going to take a lot of deliberate practice.  So my current plan is to play through raw game scores of a couple of hundred GM games a week and pay attention to this theme.

If someone out there has a better/smarter way I am all ears.  In the meantime, playing through those scores (likely through TWIC on my laptop) won’t take too long at all and I should be able to learn a thing or two.

Take this game for example, played at the recently concluded Shenzhen Masters (won by Ding Liren in a strong performance.)  Notice how Giri manages to centralize the bishops allowing him to pressure White.

I’m also going through that chapter over and over again to try to get the message to sink in.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Misunderstanding All You See

This lyric from the great John Lennon pretty much sums up my performance this past Thursday.

Here is a position.  It’s White (me) to move.  I have decided that I can’t win this position after having felt like I was better.  I decided to just play a move and offer a draw, but I didn’t really take a look to figure out how Jim might try to win this (third misunderstanding – why third and not first?  You’ll see that I misunderstood things earlier as well!)

So I play 41.Kf3?? and it’s the losing move.  After the game I felt that I could have played “either Kd3 or f4 and would have been fine.”  But f4 also loses since I can’t keep the Black king from getting the c4 (fourth misunderstanding.)

In this earlier position my opponent, Jim Coons, has just played …Kh7 and offered me a draw.  I felt I was better (first misunderstanding) and then felt that it would be easier to win this without queens since I’d no longer need to worry about keeping his queen out of my position (second misunderstanding) and so I played 33.Qe7 and Jim immediately traded queens.

After the game Jim told me that he felt that I was lost from this point on and I strongly disagreed.  He looked at the game on his iPad with Stockfish and told me the computer agrees.

I wasn’t going to disagree with the computer per se, so I ran it through Stockfish 8 on my laptop and after thinking for a while the machine agrees that while slightly worse, overall I’m fine here.

However, where I missed the boat was in not understanding that with the queens still on the board then all of the typical zugzwang motifs in these same colored bishop endings are negated.

Here is the entire game – featuring 9.Rb1, a move that shows I really need to work on this opening!

Had I drawn this game my rating would have remained relatively flat for this tournament, but as it was I lost 16 points, dropping me to 1785 and leaving me with a lot of work to do in the Publisher’s Challenge.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Training Update

It’s been a while since I last posted a training update, so there are a few things to go over!

First, the fact that I have not written about training in a bit certainly does not mean that I have not been doing any!

Two weeks ago I was on the road for work, and what else does one have to do in a hotel room after work other than study chess?  Certainly nothing productive.

So for three straight days I got off work at 4pm local time, made it back to the hotel and had dinner and a break by 5:30 and then spent the next three to five hours studying chess!

I was getting through a couple of Yusupov chapters per day, along with a bit of Positional Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand and some of Nikos’ excellent book on playing 1…e5.

Granted, this was only for a few days, but I actually found the increased activity level refreshing.

After than the level of study dropped off a little bit, but mostly due to life interfering.  When I made it back to Wisconsin I only had about half an hour to spend at home relaxing and then it was right into the car to drive an hour and a half up north to function as one of the tournament directors for the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Championships.

I wasn’t able to get much work in that way, but I did get in a late night analysis session with a couple of friends, so it was better than nothing.

However, when I made it home and was ready to resume studying we had some flooding in the basement of our house, and I lost a couple of days of study time to dealing with cleaning up the mess left from that.

However, by Thursday I was back in the saddle and won the game in my previous post.  Clearly I have some room to improve there as well, but at least things are heading in the right direction.

Tonight was a good session of Gelfand, and after I finish typing this I am going to hop in to a chapter of Yusupov as well.  Speaking of the Yusupov Challenge, you can see Jacob Aagaard discuss this topic with the author himself on a Quality Chess Vlog here.

Speaking of Jacob, I went to him for some nutritional advice, and he really delivered.  My wife and I were both very grateful for the advice he gave and I can say that the past several lunches I have had were mostly vegan and there are more to come there.

I remain convinced that improving my diet will help me study with a much higher level of focus that I am currently bringing to the table.

So all in all my work on the Quality Book challenge seems to be progressing around a month and a half in.

My rating remains flat, but my playing schedule will pick up as the year goes on and I will have many more chances to put my increased knowledge to work.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott


Lucky, Not Good

There is a saying that it’s better to be lucky that good, but that’s not the case in chess.  OK, rating wise, who doesn’t want some luck, but that won’t make you better in the long run.

Take this position from the game Wainscott – Gill from two days ago.

Seeing the threat against the queen the instinct is to move it.  So Governor plays 34…Qc3, but now after 35.Rc2 the queen is lost.

However, had he fought the instinct to move the attacked piece and looked a bit deeper perhaps he would have found 34…b5, which saves the queen with a nice counterattack.

So all in all I’ll take it, but I am not in any way satisfied with my play in this game.  I felt I was better, but then 29…Qh4 fell from the sky like a Thunderbolt and I was in some pretty serious trouble.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott


Proper Thinking in van der Wiel – Yusupov 1978 (0-1)

Since my return from vacation I have returned to Yusupov and here is a position from a 1978 game of the authors which I found intrinsically interesting.

Here is the position with Black to move:

The correct move here is 21…d5, and the reason is that it prevents castling.  After all 22.0-0 Qc5+ is brutal.

So by playing …d5 Black accomplishes a couple of things, but chief among them is the prevention of White from castling.

Here is the entire game:

One reason that I find this position to be so interesting is that it pays tribute to a saying of Shirov in one of his recent DVD’s, which is that tactics “exist within the variations” of high level games.  Meaning that while the combinations themselves rarely appear over the board, the threat of them still controls the play as it does here.

So in the initial position above the important thing to remember is John Nunn’s maxim LPDO (loose pieces drop off) which in this case means that Black is able to take advantage of White’s loose bishop by preventing castling.

It’s all about the approach.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Back From Vacation

After a relaxing week spent in Turks and Caicos I am back and ready to rock.

I didn’t fully leave chess behind during that week.  I took Glenn Flear’s Tactimania book with me and spent a few minutes here and there solving some tactical positions.  Granted, I didn’t do it in a rigid and structured way, but after all, I was on a family vacation.

As for the book, I think that Andrew Greet gave it quite the ringing endorsement when he said that he used it as part of his prep for the Olympiad.

Last night I got back to the real work of chess study, though not for as long as I would have liked.  I was only able to get in about 30 minutes, but what a 30 minutes it was.

Knowing that I had neither the time nor the energy for Yusupov last night I decided to work on some lines as White in the Slav.  I’m using Avrukh’s book on the Queen’s Gambit for this.

One of the positions I was looking at was this one, which delivers quite an important lesson.

Here is it White to move.  As you can see, b3 was played earlier.  The bishop clearly belongs on b2, otherwise there is no reason to have played b3.  So should White just move 7.Bb2 right now?  After all, the knight on d2 is attacked twice, but also defended twice.

Well, as it turns out the answer is that 7.Bb2 is a pretty serious inaccuracy which is exposed by 7…Qf6.

White now quickly gets in to trouble since now the knight on d2 is threatened.  Black is now threatening to play 8…Bxd2 and White cannot respond with 9.Nxd2 as 9…Qxf2 mates.

So in the first position above White needs to play 7.a3 and after 7…Bd6 White can put the bishop on b2.  However, the instinct so often is to play the move that looks so automatic and natural in the opening.

These are the types of themes that I need to learn in my opening play.  It’s not about memorizing lines (though doing so can be useful as long as it’s backed with understanding,) it’s about grasping nuances like this and understand the positions reached better as a result.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott