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If you ask most players their favourite way to win, most would respond with tactics and sacrifices, something like a mythical Queen sacrifice that leads to a brilliant forced mate. To play like Morphy, art on the chess board. I won’t lie, I’m one of those people … but a close second is what I call the python, where you suffocate your opponent to death, where they simply have no moves left. Sometimes, this can be even more beautiful than a dashing sacrifice, or at least I think so.
Normally, such a python strategy happens when one side has a lack of space, and then they get slowly squeezed to death. This game is odd in that it quickly opens up, both sides flying across the board … and yet, suddenly Black finds himself with no play, nothing to do and no hope of getting out. The python had him firm, and the result may be my favourite game of 2015.
If you talk to some chess players, you will find some refuse to play the French or the Slav as Black because of the exchange variations, which lead to symmetrical pawn structures and are notoriously drawish.
First off, yes, these positions ARE more drawish than most openings, but that doesn’t apply to most amateurs. If you’re under 1700 or so, the draw is practically non-existent. Here’s what does happen regardless of rating: the pawn structure is symmetrical, piece development is generally symmetrical and the game is pretty colourless. Not the most fun chess positions.
As I approach expert level, I’ve become keenly aware of the drawish tendencies of these positions. It’s very hard to win a game without any imbalances, and that’s true regardless of how much I may out-rate my opponent. In this game, I reach such a position and do my best to give myself winning chances in a dead-equal position. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →