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.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: the earth revolved around the sun again, and I’m now another year older. Woo.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
That’s an old adage that says amateur chess players need not worry about opening theory, since no one follows the mainlines after move eight anyway. This is perhaps an oversimplication, but it has a grain of truth in it. The game today, though, shows this off perfectly.
By about move 4, we had reached a completely unique position, one you could barely tell was a Sicilian. You could have every opening book ever memorized and it wouldn’t help you. If you knew basic ideas, though, then you could figure out the correct plan without much effort.
This game was a blast to play, and I’m excited to share the following crazy opening. Continue reading →
Let me start with a simple question: can you solve Lucena’s Position?
This is perhaps the most well-known endgame position in all of chess. If you’ve studied endgames even the slightest, you likely know this position. You can win this with your eyes closed, I’m sure. You just follow the standard winning maneuver and collect your Queen. Absolutely no problem, right?
When you hear about chess skills, you normally think about calculating variations, visualization and all that. While these are definitely important, they aren’t the most fundamental chess skills. To fully develop from beginner to intermediate and then to advanced, you need to master these basics first. I’ve listed them below, going from most fundamental to more specialist as we go. Continue reading →