SmithyQ-Gringo, April 2017: An Opening Crush

My opponent in this game is Gringo, long-time blog reader.  He offered a challenge, I accepted and the result is what you see here.  I can’t play against everyone who comments, but I’ll do my best, and I promise to analyze each game.  Best to do it now, because once I become a GM I’ll be charging money for this.

I’m joking.  Maybe.

In this blog, I’ve said repeatedly that the opening doesn’t matter and you don’t need to study it.  That’s true… and yet I won this game in 17 moves because of my opening.  What gives?  Some openings work much better at amateur level than professional level.  Most gambits, for instance, and systems like the Alekhine or Pirc score significantly better by those under 2000 rating.

I think the inverse is also true.  That is, there are some openings that masters play and do well with that are nonetheless not suitable for amateurs.  Any opening that leads to a solid but passive position is inherently dangerous at lower levels.  That’s basically what happened here.  Gringo got a normal QGD position, but he doesn’t have the requisite skills to play it properly.  I don’t think I have those skills.  I think the QGD is a terrible opening, but anyway, let’s take a look. Continue reading

OpaDragon-SmithyQ, April 2017: How I Think When Attacking

Let me start by saying this: I was in a bad mood, chess-wise, during this game, and so I was going to attack his King no matter what.  Today, we get to see an attacking game.  Is this the best strategy?  No, but sometimes you need to play chess for fun as well as improvement.

The game itself is surprisingly sound, all things considered.  The attack isn’t unfounded, and I still improve my position in my normal positional way.  What’s important in this game, I feel, is how I thought on each move.  That is, once the attack started, I was analyzing potential threats and sacrifices every move, several ply deep.  I didn’t stop until I found what worked, and then I dove it.

This analysis, then, will share exactly how I think during an attack.  It’s short and sweet, so let’s have a look. Continue reading

SmithyQ-Themis-Neo, April 2017: My First Loss of 2017

Well, here it is, my first loss of the new year, and my first loss in months.  Most of that is because I’ve only played a handful of games in those months, but still, that’s a good streak.  Time to start another one.

I believe in studying your own games, and this is especially true of your losses.  As such, this analysis is more directed at me personally than as for educational or entertainment value.  I need to learn from this game, and so the content is presented differently.  Mostly the information is concentrated in the critical positions, where I’ve made mistakes, and so there is less general analysis in other places.

If you dare to look anyway, though, you’ll see a smashing game from my opponent: he bravely sacrifices material for a devastating attack, and he then converts after a tough endgame.  A lovely game, one I wish I could have played as Black.  Alas, I was the victim, but I learned a great deal.  Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Game 17: SmithyQ-Gavacho_Iberico: A Beginner Analysis

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.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look. Continue reading

Game 16: SmithyQ-AliSadraei: Pressure Makes Diamonds … and Blunders

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.”

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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.

Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Game 15: SmithyQ-FreeLance: My Pet Positional System against the Sicilian

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.

We’ll explore both of these ideas in the following game. Continue reading

Game 14: BigRezi-SmithyQ: Endgames are Harrrrrd

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

Happy Birthday to Me! 2017 Edition

Let’s cut straight to the chase: the earth revolved around the sun again, and I’m now another year older.  Woo.

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I don’t know how old I am.  I was born in 1985, so do the math if you really care.

I’ve got absolutely nothing planned, because it’s a Monday.  My sister told me she’d physically assault me if I don’t come over for dinner, so there might be a small celebration tonight.  More likely she’ll just tease me, because my family is awesome and that’s how we roll.  Anyway, another year down, another year stronger.  Good job me. Continue reading

Game 13: Rustlavi-SmithyQ, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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

Game 12: SmithyQ-FlyingFortress: An Historical Endgame

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!

Let’s take a look at a long endgame. Continue reading