Hooked on a Feeling

One of the things that chess players often talk about is intuition.  Whether it’s a top flight GM explaining in their post game interview that they did something because they “had a hunch” or one of the class players at your local club intuition plays a large role in the royal game.

However, there are times when intuition simply won’t do and precise calculation is an absolute must.

Here is an excellent example that Boris Gelfand discusses in his book Positional Decision Making in Chess.

This is the position after Black’s 20th move in Gelfand-Ivanchuk Dagomys 2009

Writes Gelfand “We have reached maybe the last critical moment in the game.  At this point I had to calculate accurately to ensure that the knight endgame was winning.  As this was the case I more or less forced him to enter it.  You cannot do such things on feeling.”

What struck me quite deeply about that line is that only a few days prior I myself had done just such a thing “on feeling” in my game against Gerlach.

Here is the position with White to move:

My notes to the game say “I felt the need to try to press a little to see if my opponent would crumble at all, which he did not.”

That’s the danger – I “felt” that I had to play 22.b5.  My logic was that I couldn’t calculate any immediate danger so therefore this decision was justified.

The problem is that I also couldn’t calculate any advantage.  So therefore why was I playing on feeling.  At this point in the game I had maybe a 15 minute advantage on the clock, so if anything I should have just played solid, logical moves and hope to nurse my clock advantage to a point where my opponent was more likely to make a mistake.

Instead, I played something that was quite committal.

Clearly this is something that I will need to be much more mindful of during my games.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Challenge is On!

OK, so after Johan Verduyckt challenged me things kind of took off for the Quality Chess Challenge.

As it stands now Johan and I will be battling it out to see who has the largest rating gain from 2/13/2017-2/13/2018.

We will adjust the rules as needed to keep it fair since there may be some unexpected complications of doing a straight up ratings comparison between the USA and Belgium.

The rules as it stands now are that I will use only books from QC except where no book exists (this shouldn’t be too much since there’s only one or two things that I need that QC doesn’t have yet) and Johan will primarily use books from New in Chess, although he also has a couple of exceptions as well.

Stay tuned for details of involvement from Quality Chess as well.

Mostly my plan to improve is as follows:

First and foremost I plan on changing a lot about my overall physical health.  It’s time to turn health and nutrition into an advantage rather than a hindrance.  I have been exercising more as of late, and I plan to continue that.  I will also make sure that I am being very conscientious of what I eat at a tournament.

I recall a lecture given at my chess club by my friend FM Alex Betaneli who said that the reason he was still able to beat all of the up and coming strong juniors more often than not is that he was having a breakfast of oatmeal and yogurt while they were eating McDonalds and donuts.

Secondly, I will analyze my own games as deeply as I ever have.  My goal is to spend 2-3 hours analyzing each game without an engine.  After that I’ll blunder check with an engine, but nothing more.

I’ve always felt that class players do themselves a huge disservice with statements like “Why would I analyze my games by myself when I can have my 3000 rated coach do it?”  The answer to that is that just the very act of analyzing the games will teach you how to calculate better and to find more creative ideas in your own games.

It’s time to fine tune my openings so that I can better understand the tactics and structures that flow from them.  I’ve been working on this here and there, but not in a focused way.  It’s time to take a more professional approach to this, although I still plan on no more than an hour or so per week at this.

That brings us to my main focus.  The thing that I will be doing more than anything else – working with Artur Yusupov’s nine volume (now nine volumes plus a workbook) series.  I have ordered the first book and will begin working on it as soon as it arrives.

So my average day should look like this:

10-15 minutes of warming up with some simple puzzles.  “Priming the pump” as Vladimir Djorjevic used to put it at tournaments in Chicago.

Then an hour of serious intense work on whatever I am focusing on that day.

After that I’ll take a 10-15 minute break and then resume work until I get tired.

My main disadvantage is that most days I won’t be able to start this routine until 10pm at night.  However, since I’m typically awake until midnight or so that shouldn’t pose a huge problem.

What I am really hoping to gain from all this is just a renewed focus that I haven’t had in a while.  Sure, I’ve been working on chess, but I haven’t been WORKING on chess.

It’s devolved in to going through the motions rather than deliberate practice.

So let’s get this thing going!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Wainscott – Gerlach

Here is my game from Thursday night.  I will pick up on the Quality Chess project in earnest over the weekend.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Quality Chess Book Challenge


A couple of days ago I was chatting with Quality Chess Co-founder Jacob Aagaard and I made the remark that I felt that it would be possible to go from an Elo of 1800 to 2200 using only books put out by Quality Chess.

Although the remark was made somewhat off the cuff at the time, the truth is that I believe that this is genuinely possible.

So what I am going to do starting now, is dedicate the rest of this year to using only Quality Chess books to see how much improvement is possible.

I think it’s important to point out that this idea is mine alone and is based on nothing more than my belief that QC puts out extremely high quality material.

The controls for this experiment will be as follows:

I will primarily use only books by Quality Chess as outside study materials.  The exceptions will be that I will continue to use Susan Polgar’s Chess Tactics for Champions to work on simple tactics, and that I will not be so dogmatic that if there is no QC book I won’t go without.

So for example, I play the 5.Bf4 QGD as White.  Quality Chess does not have a book that covers that line as far as I am aware, so I will continue to use other resources for those lines.

When there is a QC book that exists, but that I don’t own, I will order it.  So for example if I decide to learn the Nimzo then I will buy the recently published book by QC on the Nimzo.  However, as I’m not working with unlimited funds here I won’t be able to do everything I like.

My starting point right now is A Spanish Repertoire for Black by Mihail Marin.  I have been working on 1…e5, so this fits in naturally.  However, my main drive will be to begin work on the nine volume (now ten volume) Yusupov set.  I have ordered the first book, and you can bet that once it arrives that’s what I’ll be working on.

I will keep everyone informed and up to date in regards to what I am working on, along with any progress that occurs.  I would also like to state right now at the beginning that any stumbling blocks or failure are mine alone.  I will not blame any publisher for any lack of improvement that would necessarily be due to my own lack of effort.

My goal is to be over 1900 Elo by the end of the year.  That would represent a gain of nearly 100 points.

My hope is that this effort will give me just a little bit more ability to focus since I’ll have something that I’m mentally tying my training program to.

I envision each month of effort being split out with about 50% analyzing my own games, 40% reading Quality Chess books and solving the exercises within, and about 10% playing.

I do plan on trying to play more this year than I have been.  I know that it’s vital that I go from 45 or so games a year to 80 or so this year.

So with that in mind, let’s get going!

(Please note that I will continue to do product review for other publishers so some crossover effort is unavoidable.)

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott