The game I’m about to share isn’t especially interesting. My opponent made a silly mistake, losing a pawn, then a sillier mistake, losing a piece. That’s about it.
Rather than trying to explain advanced strategy or positional nuances behind unforced blunders, I have instead annotated this game for beginners. It has lots of commentary, few variations and a constant stream of what I’m thinking on most moves as well as my goals. I hope it’s useful for you improving players.
There’s a familiar phrase, “Pressure makes diamonds.” And it’s true. You take some ugly rocks, put them under intense pressure for millions of years and boom, you’ve got some pretty diamonds. At the same time, as I tell people whenever I can, “Yeah, pressure makes diamonds, but it also makes balloons pop.”
What can I say, I’m a cynical optimist.
Coming back to chess, I have a long-standing theme on this blog: most amateur games are decided by blunders. You can win a heck of a lot of games just by looking for enemy mistakes. Now, if you just sit there and do nothing, your opponent might blunder, but he or she probably won’t. Just like anything else, blunders can be created.
Of course, you can’t physically force your opponent to blunder, but you can make it much more likely. If you are under pressure, you start thinking different, you start to worry, you start feeling the danger, and then blunders follow almost automatically. In today’s game, I do exactly this, making a single attacking thrust and then having my opponent contort into a ball out of fear.
This game features two main points I want to discuss: my opening system against the Sicilian and my theory on chess playing.
First, the opening system. I’m a big believer in the Maroczy Bind structure against the Sicilian. White gets a thematic set-up with very little risk, the moves are easy, the middlegame plan is easy, perhaps most importantly, most Black players don’t know the first thing about it. I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. Here’s the basic set-up.
Second, one thing I’ve learned from GM Smirnov is the importance of moving pieces forward wherever possible. This has given me an insight or theory on chess. In general, the side that moves backwards most is the one that will lose, and in particular, a backwards move often indicates a chance for the other side to gain an immediate advantage, often via tactics.
There are two main ways people fail to win won games. The first is the simple blunder, where you overlook a tactic or leave a piece hanging. Opps. Hate when that happens. The second is more insidious, though. It’s where you are winning the entire game, and you know you are winning, and yet you can’t finish the endgame off.
Maybe you’re up a pawn, up an exchange, up a piece, but for whatever reason victory eludes you. If you don’t know what you are doing, then endgames are extremely hard, and I freely admit that I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. This game shows that perfectly: I reach a very good position, on the verge of winning, and yet the longer the endgame goes the less stable my advantage gets.
Let’s take a look at this beyond frustrating experience. You’ll notice that my commentary is top heavy, because I can explain the early middlegame very well, but beyond that, my explanatory powers go down. Continue reading →
I remember playing this game, and my thoughts were all over the place. I went from super confident to super worried and back again. Truly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for it’s hard to imagine the same person played all my moves.
If you go by the computer, my first nine moves are perfect. I then start turning into Mr. Hyde, where my moves become worse and worse, until finally I make five tactically flawed moves in a row. Fortunately, Dr. Jekyll starts to reassert himself, and I finish the game off in an endgame without incident.
The game is short but the analysis long, mostly due to the mistakes. Dig in and get ready to calculate with me. Continue reading →
This game shows my preferred playing style almost to a tee: I get a decent position in the opening, then immediately manage to inflict weak pawns on my opponent. He suffers for the rest of the middlegame and endgame, and I have constant winning chances and no risks.
I don’t manage to win the game, mind you, but I was in no danger of losing, either.
For me, this game is most interesting in terms of historical importance. At the time, I had never been much above 1800, and I struggled mightily against players 1850+. My opponent was nearly 1900, and his highest rating was over 2000 … and I handled him easily. He had no chances this game, and it took great skill for him to escape with a draw. This game was the first indication that, holy cow, my training was working!
When I play my best chess, I make things look simple. I don’t use fancy tactics, I don’t have to sacrifice the kitchen sink. I just improve my position, slowly and gradually, and then I win. Okay, so I’m missing a couple steps in the middle there, but that’s the general outlook.
This game shows this almost perfectly. White makes an early inaccuracy in the Nimzo, and he basically loses a pawn by force. From there I just slowly move forward and suddenly White is in a dire, terrible position. After about move 10, none of my moves are difficult or hard to find, and White gets swept away.
This is positionally outplay, my favourite way to play. Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
My last post drew a few responses from two readers, so I thought I’d answer them while also going through my general plan for the next 2-3 months.
I’m currently taking a small break from chess, in that I’m currently not actively studying or playing. This is a mental break for me. I recently got a new job in addition to my old one, and I’m working 11-12 hours each day. I think I’ve earned a small break. Continue reading →
If you’ve seen any of my chess games before, you’ll know I tend to favour fairly calm, logical positions. I’m much more of a Karpov than a Kasparov, if you will. Sometimes, though, logic goes out the window. Sometimes you just have a mess and have to deal with it the best you can.
That’s what happened here. We had a weird opening, where I won a pawn but got into a messy position. This then lead to a weird middlegame, where both Kings were displaced and major weaknesses were everything. Things then settled down in the endgame, but even here there was a mess that needed cleaning up.
It took me over a week to analyze this game. Due to its messy nature, both my opponent and I made many mistakes, and it took a long, computer-assisted look to determine best play. Those mistakes also make the game longer and, honestly, perhaps somewhat bloated, but there’s a lot to learn. Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
On my chess.com account, I currently have 8 losses out of just over 100 games. I should have many more, but I have a few miracle draws and swindles to my name. The one I show today, though, might take the cake.
I should have known this game would be a tragicomedy when, somehow, I ended up playing the French defence. I play well and win a pawn … and then I start hallucinating and think White has major threats. I overreact to these threats, and the next thing you know I’m in a losing endgame where White is up several pawns, one of which is two moves from Queening and mating.
And I escape. Beware, I evidently possess dark mystical powers, because that’s the best explanation for what you are about to witness. Continue reading →