Tonight I encountered the Bird’s Opening. It’s an opening that I can recall encountering just a couple of times. When that happens, I try not to panic. All I can do is try to rely on general opening principles to get me into a middlegame and then proceed from there.
There was nothing flashy about my play tonight. I aimed for central control and smooth development from the start. This was a rapid game, and I guess my opponent expected the opening to leave me completely mystified. When that didn’t happen, my opponent played passively and didn’t seem to have much of a plan. That’s a fairly common experience for me: players who choose the more exotic openings rely too much on surprise and not enough on plain, simple chess-sense.
Towards the end, I made a few sub-optimal moves. None of them let the game get away from me. The outcome was no longer in doubt, and my inaccuracies just meant I’d play a move or two (or three longer).
Robbie has produced a YouTube lecture on a topic that chess improvers need to master: color complexes. He explains the basic principles on how to identify weak color complexes and how to develop successful plans involving weak squares.
IM Andrew Martin provides chess improvers with some sound advice on winning techniques in a brief YouTube video.
GM Daniel King gets out his “way back” machine and analyzes a couple of classic games between Vishy Anand and Garry Kasparov. Both are from the PCA World Chess Championship in New York City during 1995. Games 9 and 13. The first was a Scheveningen. The second was a Yugoslav Attack. Gripping stuff to watch!
I’ve been watching Elisabeth Pähtz’ new ChessBase video: How to Play the Sicilian Defense. I can use good instruction on plans and ideas in the Sicilian Defense.
The following position arrived in one of her games. Both sides missed opportunities, with sharp play by both. I post it only for the interesting aesthetics: a whole clump of pieces on the kingside.
When your opponent makes a “non-theoretical” move in the opening, you want to take a little time to consider if the move is a mistake and if there is a practical way to punish it.
The game fragment below is from GM Lev Alburt’s book, A Fresh Look at Chess: 40 Instructive Games, Played and Annotated by Players Like You. It’s a small book, but a gem for us improving chess players.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to decline the Smith-Morra Gambit in the Sicilian Defense. Black chose a poor way. White didn’t consider his options too deeply, either. It took him three moves to finally play the move that should have been his immediate replay: d5!.
White was rated USCF 1788 and black was USCF 1904. They played this game in a San Diego Chess Club tournament during 2008. Not the most impressive game for a near Class A player and a mid-level Class A player.
GM Alburt has some excellent advice:
Remember, if you can push a central pawn to the fifth rank attacking the enemy knight, do it — or at least consider it very seriously.
I played a 30+30s game tonight. My opponent chose to reply 1. … e5 and I decided to play the c3 Guioco Piano. My opponent was rated 120 points lower and played just fine for the first 20 moves. He played passively, but no major blunders until move 21. He did play too fast. He still had more than 30 minutes on the clock. (I had approx. 20 minutes left on my clock.) Move 21 was a tactical blunder. The big mistake came two moves later. Black obviously thought I had blundered my rook on a1 and quickly grabbed the piece. He should have taken a couple of minutes and checked to see if I was tactically blind or if there was a combination that he was missing.
I run into tactical blindness a lot at my level. I’m not sure if they get so focused on their own plan, they get so excited at winning a piece that they get careless, or they underestimate their opponent and assume blunders when they should suspect a trap.
The idea of playing through games from each world champion is something I’ve considered for a while. I even created my own ChessBase databases previously for each. Bruce Pandolfini’s suggestion has motivated me to get started with this training technique. I’m going to start my own personalized course of World Chess Champions with the games of Paul Morphy. I have a couple of Kindle books on Paul Morphy. “A First Book on Morphy” by Francisco del Rosario and “Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective” by Valeri Beim. I can play through those games. Plus the games from Garry Kasparov’s “Garry Kasparov On My Great Predecessors, Volume 1.”
NM Bruce Pandolfini posted an excellent suggestion on his Facebook page. He suggests that improvers follow the advice of Jack Collins, one of Bobby Fischer’s chess teachers: play through 100 games from every world champion.
Bruce even discusses some alternatives, like the suggestion from Imre Konig for learning an opening: take 25 games from each world champion for a specific opening. Learn how the Ruy Lopez was played from Morphy through Carlsen, for example.
I plan on starting this weekend with the 100 games per champion method.
Click here to read Bruce Pandolfini’s suggestion.
Here’s another IQP game from IM Sam Collin’s new ChessBase DVD. This one is from the 2012 European Championship, too. It’s a Slav Defense. Mateusz Bartel adopts an IQP. Fabiano Caruana appears to be caught off guard in this game. He makes a couple of dubious moves that lead to a very quick loss. As IM Collins notes, you don’t often see Caruana losing in 22 moves.
I’m watching IM Sam Collins new ChessBase video this weekend. It’s volume six in his series, Know the Terrain. He covers pawns structures in this series, and the latest volume is on Isolated Queen’s Pawn strategies. One of the games IM Collins discusses is Sokolov v. Riazantsev from the 2012 European Championship. The endgame is interesting for us improvers. It’s an endgame where black has five pawns against a rook and pawn. Unfortunately for black, his kingside pawns were not far enough advanced.
I have pretty much avoided blitz chess. The number of games I’ve played that are less than 10 minutes is very small. This morning I played a two minute game. As I expected, it was a sloppy affair for both sides. First black blundered. Then I blundered right away. Black blundered again, and I was more than willing to accept a draw by repetition.
ChessBase has just released Fritz 14. The good thing about the update is that there is only one version now. ChessBase has bundled 32-bit and 64-bit versions together and it also supports up to eight cores. There is no more separate (more expensive) version for multiple cores. The update is also fully compatible with Windows 8.1.
The sparring feature is not new to Fritz. I don’t even know if they’ve made any improvements to it in Fritz 14. I never really tried the sparring feature much until this weekend. I used the handicap mode instead and found that Fritz tended to play like a dunce at estimated ratings in the range of 1400-1900. Not just stupid moves; moves that were completely unrealistic.
The sparring mode plays a much more realistic game. Novices will likely struggle, even if they set sparring to the very easy setting.
Sparring mode plays game from reasonably strong to extremely strong. At the same time, if Fritz finds a move that allows the opponent to gain a tactical advantage in a clever way, Fritz will play that move. This is a great way to practice tactics.
You can select the grade of difficulty of the tactics that will be offered. Very easy is for players with ratings starting at around 1400 and usually involves finding forks and two move combinations. Normal is meant for players between 1700 and 1900. Very hard is for players from 1900 all the way up to GMs. You also have the option of allowing Fritz to “point out wins.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration. When you select the option, Fritz will flash a red light below the board when there is a good move available for the opponent. Fritz will print out a notice in the game notation, if you miss a tactical opportunity.
I’ve been having a great deal of fun sparring against Fritz 14. It’s the most realistic way to play against the computer that I’ve found, short of getting completely clobbered by playing against the engine without some sort of handicap.
Mato Jelic has posted a YouTube video on a topic that’s relevant to every improving chess player: how to attack the castled king. In the analyzed game, Sergey Karjakin quickly dispatches Vasily Malinin. The game lasts only twenty moves and Karjaken still made multiple piece sacrifices to open the castled king. The PGN for the game follows.
Far too often, I fail to consider the entire board before I move. Then, right after I make my move, I see something important that I missed. Happens to us all, I know. Even GMs. But for use improvers, it happens often. 28. … g5 was — fortunately — not an outright blunder. I still had a decisive advantage. It did give my opponent more possibilities than the much better move 28. … Rc5.
A hard lesson we improvers need to fully appreciate is that it takes just one weak move against a stronger opponent and a promising position can end up instead with a draw or (worse) a defeat.
In the game below, I got through the Caro Kann okay. The last week or so, I’ve been experimenting with the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. My blunder was 12. Qxb4, which released the tension in the position. From that point forward, black did not give me much to work with to win. We ended up in a drawn K+P v K endgame.
This was a rapid game, and I simply did not consider Kf1, since it would have made activating the KR more troublesome than castling. Less effective thinking all around. I needed to give more consideration to maintaining the tension (and even increasing it) and how Qxb4 worked against that plan. I also needed to consider Kf1, even though it was unpleasing both aesthetically and as a general matter of principle.
As far as blunders go, at least this one did not result in a quick and complete defeat. Still, it cost me a game with promising possibilities.
Tryfon Gavriel, who goes by the moniker Kingscrusher, has produced some excellent chess videos on YouTube. He’s compiled a playlist for his analysis of the World Chess Championship 2013.
Click here to visit Kingscrusher’s YouTube playlist for the World Chess Championship 2013.
Sometimes my opponents completely mystify me. They play really well and then all of a sudden they make a series of unforced errors. I’m not sure if they get distracted. Perhaps they get frustrated with their position. maybe they become desperate.
My opponent was almost 200 points higher rated. I was irked when he disconnected, although I know this can happen through no fault of my opponent. What irked me was that my opponent came right back online and started another game without resuming. That signaled to me, my opponent wanted time to consider the position “off the clock.”
We finished the game tonight. I was down a pawn, but I felt my position was solid. We played several more moves and the position seemed drawish. Since my opponent was so much stronger and the position appeared equal, I offered a draw. My opponent decided to play on.
Sometimes the position can change so much in just a couple of moves. The next move, I won my pawn back. Another move and I was no longer interested in a draw. I evaluated the position as a winning advantage for white. Black’s game just imploded. It seemed like I was playing a completely different opponent.
I’ve written a bit recently here and on The Chess Improver about priyomes. If this is your first time to see the word priyome, they are important strategic patterns and associated maneuvers to remember.
The priyome I want to discuss here is restriction of the enemy knight using wing pawns. These could be the a-pawn and b-pawn in tandem or the g-pawn and h-pawn. Either player can use the pattern.
We improvers are taught that knights need outposts to be effective. Nimzowitsch wrote extensively about the use of prophylaxis. That’s another term that might be unfamiliar. The concept is easy to state. Prophylaxis relates to prevention. A common example is preventing activity by enemy knights. This can be done with pawns, pieces, or a mix of the two.
The example below comes from Mikhail Botvinnik, who had the white pieces. His opponent was Isaac Boleslavsky.
Boleslavsky tried to distract white with an attack on the queenside rook pawn. Botvinnik ignored the threat and instead focused his efforts on first restricting the black knight and then driving it backward. He reasoned, if he could remove the knight from f6, his rook could advance to the seventh rank and his own knight could move to e5 or f4.
Bobby Fischer. Mikhail Tal. Even in a blitz game, a great game was expected. Tryfon Gavriel posted a YouTube video from Herceg Novi where Fischer played the King’s Indian Attack. The PGN for the game follows.
I continued my experiments with the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon this weekend. In the game below, white decided to play the King’s Indian Attack when I played 1. … c5.
White opted for an isolated queen’s pawn (IQP) in this game.
I’ve read lots of comments about IQPs. Some players are quick to play them. Some avoid them at nearly any cost. My reading is that IQPs — like other static chess features — can be a positive or negative feature. It depends on the other imbalances in the position. The typical strategy when playing against the IQP is to blockade it and attack it.
In the game below, the IQP was blockaded when it emerged. I had a pawn directly in front of it on d5. My immediate plan was to apply pressure to the IQP. I attacked it with four pieces: queen, a pair of knights, and a bishop. White blundered and removed one of the defenders. The IQP fell as a result.
You can see I’m not a titled player from some of my moves. I had a couple of opportunities to play stronger moves and (perhaps) obtain a slight advantage as we moved into the endgame. Typical at my level, my opponent had some missed opportunities, too. I ended up drawing a stronger opponent in a double rook endgame.
The World Chess Championship for 2013 is over! Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen on a brilliant victory! Congratulations to Vishy Anand as a superb world champion. His sportsmanship during the match was exemplary.
Speaking of exemplary . . . GM Daniel King posted daily summaries on his YouTube site for each of the games. As readers of this site know, I’m a huge fan of the wit and style Danny King demonstrates in his game commentaries.
Improving chess players should study these games. And a great way to do that, is to savor GM King’s analysis.
Click here to visit GM King’s YouTube collection for the World Chess Championship 2013.
Tryfon Gavriel (aka Kingscrusher) has put together his own video commentary and analysis on the penultimate game from the World Chess Championship 2013. This is a brilliant game that every aspiring chess improver should study.
I’ve mentioned multiple times that I’ve been adding chess books to my Kindle as they become available. I find the Kindle to be very convenient. Whether I use my Kindle device(s) or I read them from one of my computers (such as my Windows Surface Pro), it’s great to have a huge collection of chess books available.
I’ve decide whether to donate the printed copies to the university library or to the county library system. I’m leaning towards the county library system, since I believe they get more widely circulated from the public libraries here in Leon County, FL.
I need to do this over the next few weeks: before December 31st. That way, I can take a charitable donation from my income tax. To do that will require a lot of time and effort. I have to catalog all the books I’m donating and then get on a site like Amazon.com and figure out what their market value is.
I take great care of my books. No bends, creases, marks, etc. If I bought them new, they’re still in new condition.
My office bookshelves will definitely appreciate the reduced strain!
One unfortunate fact of Internet chess is mouse slips. In the game below tonight, I made one in the QGD. I intended 24. … QxQ. Instead, I (unintended) ended up dropping the mouse on d5 instead of e5.
When players tell me they’ve made a mouse slip, I offer to allow them to take the move back. I’d prefer to play their best game, not win through a mechanical mistake.
In the game below, we were playing a 15 minute unrated game. My opponent had a good three minute plus advantage. Was I offered the same courtesy? Not at all. I find only very rarely, when I tell someone I made a mouse slip in a friendly game, do they opt to play my best game. It seems that even in unrated games, they are so obsessed with winning, that they cannot even acknowledge the mechanics of a mouse slip.