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 →
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.
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 →
I’ve completed my most recent game in my chess.com tournament, this one against a decent 1760 player. You’ll notice I won without doing anything special, which is sorta my hallmark. Hey, a win is a win, right? I think there’s two related reasons for this in this case.
First, my opponent played very passively. I’m not sure he had a single threat all game. If you don’t put pressure on me, I can do anything I want without risk. I have no chance to lose, so I’m pretty happy, and my position just gets better and better. In such situations, the defender often blunders, which is exactly what happened.
Second, and perhaps more important, I had the higher rating. We all know to play the board, not the person or the rating, but we all do to a certain extent. We’ll play risky gambits against much weaker players because we think we can get away with it. I think, though I can’t be sure, that the opposite occurred here. My opponent saw my rating was higher than his and tried to play solid to compensate. This almost always backfires, and here it gave me a relatively easy win. Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
If you play 1…e5 as Black, you need to have something ready against the King’s Gambit. All the Ruy Lopez or Berlin Wall knowledge you have will do you diddly if White starts with blood in his eyes on move two.
Most people are content to play some 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 exf4, which is certainly a sound way to go about. At the same time, it’s exactly the type of position White wants, and he likely has much more experience in it than you do. That’s not exactly how you punish White for his opening daring.
Instead, I have a pet defence based on the cheeky 2…Qh4+. The following game shows it in action. I wouldn’t claim it’s better than any other defence to the King’s Gambit, but it DOES pull the game into a decidedly positional direction, and White almost certainly has less experience than I do. Take a look. Continue reading →
First, let me celebrate. I recently reached the 2100 rating mark … and then immediately lost a game to fall below it … then had a few draws … then I won and now I’m back over 2100! It’s by exactly one point, but I’ll take it.
Just a few years ago, I had been stuck at 1800 most of my life. To have my rating now over 2000, let alone over 2100, is like a dream come true.
When I broke the 2000 barrier for the first time last year, I wrote a post examining exactly how I did it. That is, I looked at every single victory and classified it by type. For instance, sometimes I won by a mating attack, sometimes by an endgame advantage, and sometimes my opponents just hung material and I took it. It was a good experience, and quite eye-opening. I learned a lot about myself…
… and then I wondered, if this were so useful only looking at one year’s worth of games, how much more insight would I get from looking at ALL my games? The thought never left my head, and after nearly three months of work, I present to you my findings. It’s pretty awesome. Continue reading →
I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a Smirnov fanboy, a disciple if you will. If he makes something, I buy it. I have good reason: before his courses, I had been stuck at 1800 rating for years and years. I studied Grandmaster’s Positional Understanding, his flagship course, in 2015, and in March 2016 my rating currently sits at 2088. I’ve improved nearly 300 points, and I might not be done yet. That’s awesome.
I’ll be honest, I’m amazed at my progress.
I own all of Smirnov’s courses, and as I’ve begun watching and rewatching all the lessons, I’ve begun to see the overall pattern or structure of his teaching. I now understand why his courses are the way they are, and I want to share that with you here. Continue reading →
This game was special. For one, it pushed me to 1990 rating, and my next win (which happened on the very same day) pushed me over 2000 rating for the first time. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I thought it was one of the best games I had ever played. Ever.
It certainly was a good game, against a good 1800-ish opponent, but time away and deep analysis has exposed some blemishes. Still, as far as positional games go, it was a treat to play, and when he finally resigned I felt a surge of excitement I hadn’t felt over a chess victory in a long time.
Quick background: the game started out as a Nimzo, then transposed into a QGD structure. I made a freeing tactic which turned the game into a related but unique structure, and I then used my bad Bishop to outplay a good Knight before simplifying into a better endgame. Pfew. Continue reading →
Over the weekend, instead of watching the Superbowl, I mostly played chess. I play correspondence chess, and I had a few opponents on at roughly the same time. We exchanged moves quickly, or as quickly as correspondence chess allows, and soon I had three games approaching the 40th move. I had a growing advantage in all three, and suddenly all three were over.
In September I did not finish any of my correspondence games, despite having 11 on the go. In October I finished most of them, all against opponents greater than 1750, and most were quite interesting. I’ve won them all so far, though one was due to a timeout in an equal position. Along the way I passed the 1900 rating mark, and I wrote about four of those games here.
For my game of the month I choose the following match, one played against an 1800 rated player. It was an Open Sicilian, but the play was very positional in nature. There were no sudden tactics or crazy attacks: I simply improved my position slowly, and Black had to way to hang on to his weaknesses. I like attacks and sacrifices as much as the next guy, but this is my favourite way to play: calm, logical, absolutely no risk, and it’s easy. Few of my moves are difficult to find.