Blind In One Eye And Can’t See Out The Other One

The game below is from the second round of my most recent event that I played in Colorado Springs. This game was a comedy of errors. I lost the first round and I think that my opponent did too, but I am not sure of that. Roger appears to be about ten years older than I am and I think that fatigue may have played a part in the way that he played this game. I took a lunch break between the first round and the second round and thus I arrived about five minutes late for the start of this game. That lost time may have hurt me in the endgame when we had a time scramble.

I was disappointed with a draw in this game because I thought that I was winning the endgame. We were the last game to finish that round and we got only 15 minutes to recover before the start of the third and final round. I ended up drawing my third round as well due to fatigue from this round. However, when I played over this game with a chess engine I became grateful for the draw because it was then that I realized that Roger let me get away with some horrendous blunders!

The first eight moves was pretty much what I wanted to play as White. Black’s ninth move pretty much started to mess up my plans because I had never seen that kind of setup against the Botvinnik System before. I misplayed the next ten moves or so and I ended up in an inferior position that Roger eventually let me out of.

On move number 16 I had achieved equality only to give Black a slight edge on move number 17. I outright blundered on move number 19, but Roger failed to take advantage of that. Judging by his facial expressions at a couple of points in this game Roger was actually impressed by some of my blunders!

I blundered again on move number 21. At move number 23 Black was clearly winning. Black missed a winning move on move number 24. I blundered again on move number 26 and Black let me get away with it. My moves number 27 and 28 were again blunders. Black finally finds a winning idea on move number 28. Black gives back part of his advantage on move number 31. Once again, I blundered on move number 35. Black blunders on move number 36 and allows me to regain equality. Black plays some inferior moves on numbers 44, 45, and 46 inclusive that allow me the opportunity to win, but I failed to take advantage of that. It seems that from this point on, every time that one of us made a weak move the other one matched it. I gave away my passed d pawn in the time scramble and then agreed to a draw.

Mike Serovey

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How Do You Play Against 1 h3?

When I was 10 years old in 1980, shortly after playing in my first couple of rated tournaments, I came under the influence of the then-current Michigan Open champion, a master who changed the course of my life by introducing me to the bizarre in chess and therefore stimulating my imagination, resulting in my developing a taste for the unorthodox (for both better and worse in my chess development). In particular, he showed me Grob’s Attack, the opening in which White plays 1 g4 as the first move, a move that violates all the conventional principles that most chess players are taught when first learning the game. I never actually played this opening, because to his credit, he not only showed me the traps White can set for Black, but also how Black can sidestep the traps and get an advantage.

Knowing how to face unorthodox openings in chess, both technically and psychologically, is an important part of growth for a serious student of chess. It is extremely easy for chess players to fall into an unthinking automatism in the opening stages of a game, following some pattern of moves without understanding what their purpose is, or without doing at least some rudimentary calculation when the position starts becoming unfamiliar and out of the scope of memorized patterns.

In particular, many chess players as Black behave in a reactive way rather than an active way, because of the fact that many mainstream openings involve White placing considerable pressure on Black from the outset, such that Black is essentially forced to defend. But what if White plays in a less aggressive way? This is when true understanding and creativity are demanded.

I believe that every player as Black should have a prepared personal plan against each of White’s twenty possible opening moves (eight possible Pawn advances of one square, eight possible Pawn advances of two squares, and two possible moves of each Knight). The plan should be not just some new memorized pattern, but one that can be explained in terms of strategic and tactical factors, whether general or specific. I find that being able to confidently verbalize one’s reasoning (even if it is not necessarily entirely correct) is important.

1 h3 as an example

I’m not going to give a Black recommendation against 1 h3 here; instead, I want you to come up with your own, by considering some of the following questions, and answering them for yourself. Even better, go further by adding your own questions and answering them as well.

What is White’s purpose?

The first step is to ask what purpose White has in making the move. There must be some objective to it (even if you can calculate that you can prevent White’s plan from having an advantageous outcome). What squares are now attacked (or protected) that were not, before the move? What squares have been, by contrast, unprotected or weakened? What lines of development or attack have been opened, or closed?

In the case of 1 h3, by thinking about such questions, you might observe:

  • White has not made any progress in developing pieces, either by actually developing a piece or by opening a line to enable development of a piece.
  • White still does not have any control over the center squares.
  • White does control the g4 square now.
  • White has weakened the g3 square, which is now only protected by the f-Pawn.
  • White has made space on the h2 square for a piece to possibly be moved there.

Then you might hypothesize that perhaps:

  • White may be planning to support a g4 Pawn advance.
  • White may be thinking way ahead, in anticipation of Black wanting to eventually put a Bishop or Knight on g4, but is preventing it already.
  • White may be thinking way ahead, preparing to eventually develop the dark-squared Bishop to f4, and then having h2 as an escape square in case the Bishop is attacked.

If you considered the last two of these possibilities, you are probably an advanced player who already has a grasp of mainstream opening theory and are able to relate it to unorthodox moves.

What is your purpose as Black?

Let’s say that you usually play the standard move 1…Nf6 as Black against mainstream opening moves other than 1 e4. Maybe you are used to playing for a Nimzo-Indian or Queen’s Indian type of setup with 1…Nf3, 2…e6. If you went on autopilot, you might quickly play 1…Nf6 against 1 h3 only to be faced with 2 g4. And then if 2…e6, 3 g5 might follow, chasing your Knight away. Now, it’s not the case that White actually has any advantage even if you played on autopilot; in fact, frankly, White still has a worse position despite autopilot. But if autopilot is a symptom of not thinking, you could quickly find yourself in a bad position after all, after several more indifferent moves.

You should probably question why you would play 1…Nf6 against 1 h3 at all. One observation you could make is that you are actually playing White in this game. For example, if you normally play 1 e4 as White, why not consider 1…e5 against 1 h3? Or if you normally play 1 d4 as White, why not consider 1…d5?

Against passive or slow moves by White, consider thinking in terms of actually “playing White”, with reversed colors. Also, even one tempo down, there may be benefits for that missing tempo. For example, might it be possible to exploit White’s weakened dark squares g3 and h2?

Conclusion

I believe there is considerable valuable in devoting some serious time thinking about and writing down your thoughts about how you would approach playing against an opening move like 1 h3. It will expose assumptions you have about the nature of the delicate balance between White and Black in the initial board position, and what you expect to happen in the middlegame when it comes to King safety, weak squares, and a head start in either defense or attack.

Franklin Chen

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Blunder Or Sense Of Danger

For us a mistake which turn the table or decides the game is called a blunder, but for kids it’s nothing special. I have seen lots of kids win games with a single piece against a huge army. The reason is that a sense the danger has not been cultivated. We normally teach kids to check the square twice before moving and check what the opponent’s last move threatened. Without experience kids can’t do this instinctively.

For example, in the following position you will often see kids play a bishop to f5 with Black or f4 with White:


I have tried to find the cause and came up with following conclusions:

1. We coaches are not focusing on that area as we believe that, some skills come only with time.
2. If I tell the parents of my private students that they are playing very few games, they are not particularly bothered. They are much more interested in the by products of chess training than the game itself. They believe that chess is a tool that will help their kids develop their minds so they ask kids to learn chess even if they’re not very interested.

As a coach we can’t do much about the second factor except increase playing time during the class. But we should try to work on the first factor, that with proper attention we can reduce the amount of time in acquiring a sense of danger.

Normally I prepare very simple diagrams to explain how piece moves, attack and capture. Now I am going to add some diagrams where kids have to mark where his or her piece is not safe. You can start with very few pieces and gradually make it more complicated, for example:


Once he or she is doing reasonably well we should focus on his or her real game and should compose new positions from them which can be presented in the next class.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Critical Objectivity: Part II

“Find Fault …
Judge with severity …
… readily.”

If you were with me last week, you will likely remember that the above is the phrase I suggested that every chess player should live by with regard to each game they play if they are serious about their chess and would like to improve. In our constant search to further our chess understanding and to be better exponents of the game, we carry out post-game analysis. This, in my opinion, comes in two parts and we apply the above phrase to both. The first part, is the so-called ‘post-mortem’ analysis, which is done straight after the game, and preferably with one’s opponent. This was covered in my blog last week, and I advise you to read that first if it’s a stranger to you. The link is shown below.

http://chessimprover.com/critical-objectivity-part-i/

This week, we deal with the other part of post-game analysis, namely: Home Analysis.

Home analysis is very different from the post-mortem. It is usually done alone and takes a lot longer to carry out. In Home Analysis, our purpose (some would say ‘duty’) is to scrutinise our game — not only the one’s we have completed, but also our game as a whole. In order to do this, we must be prepared to make some sacrifices. The first is time, for in order for home analysis to be effective, it can not (and should not … must not) be rushed. The second sacrifice must be our ego, for a chess player who is too proud to be bluntly honest with his or herself wont progress very much. Before problems can be worked on (and trust me, no matter how strong a player, ones game is full of problems) they must first be identified.

As daunting as this sounds, it actually should be welcomed. After all, it means that it is possible to get better. With some dedication and hard work, honesty, and a strong will –not to mention a love for the game of chess, which is most important– it is my strong belief that any chess player can improve in some way, shape, or form. When a player tells me that they think they can not improve and have reached their peak, I usually ask them if they analyse and am not surprised that most don’t.

“I don’t have time”,
“I can’t be bothered”,
“it’s boring”,
“that’s only for grandmasters”. I’ve heard most excuses and this is more often the cause of any lack of progress.

So, we have covered the ‘why’, let’s turn our attention to the ‘how’ …

There are no hard and fast rules with home analysis, just like there aren’t with the post-mortem, it varies from player to player, and the more that one carries it out, the more it will gel and one will discover what works and develop their own technique. I do have a few general points of advice, however:

- Be alone and quiet. If possible, be totally free from interruption and distraction.

- Be comfortable.

- Analyse over a 3D, physical board, on which you can move pieces, not with a chess engine. This way, you will learn more, you will retain more information, you will gain more pattern recognition, and you will recall it easier and more accurately in your future games. It goes without saying, that the chess engine, opening book, and database/tablebase have value and can help a lot, but I think they have a danger of being over-used to the detriment of the brain.

- Be thorough, don’t rush or leave anything out.

- Treat the whole exercise as middlegame. Speaking for myself, I found that my analysis improved and became much more productive once I discovered this. Even if you have got in to trouble in the opening or endgame, I urge you to try to resist the temptation to open your openings book or tablebase. You can do this later on, and target those areas of your game specifically and that is best all-round. The point of post-game analysis should be to dissect the game that we have played, and to therefore evaluate how we play. Accordingly, we focus on our strategic understanding, our positional judgement, our calculation of variations, our tactical vision, our sense of danger. These things are the bread and butter of the chess game.

- Be Honest … bluntly honest.

When analysing, play through the game, armed with your notes from the post-mortem conducted with your opponent. These will already have given you some things to look at more closely. Do this at each move, not only from your perspective, but also from that of your opponent. What was played? What else was there? Explore the options, write the variations down along with your evaluations. Was the best move chosen, or was there something better? What was missed? What did you feel were critical positions? Again, you will already have an idea on this, make a note of it/them and delve in as deep as you like. This is a super exercise in itself and will be great for your pattern recognition.

Only when the analysis is completed should it be taken to the computer. Just a point of caution, however, computer evaluations of positions should be taken with a pinch of salt. You may think this is a bold statement, but even the best chess engine is very capable of giving a minus score in a position where White is actually doing very well. Likewise, it might show that White is up by +0.50 just before Black’s cramped position is about to explode in a fashion that would make Smyslov proud, and begin to dominate the whole board. Please bear this in mind. If you felt fine at a point in the game and your engine says your opponent is better, it does not necessarily mean you are wrong. Better does not mean winning, winning does not mean won. This is a unique feature with regard to chess engines, they are just sometimes not human enough.

Where your engine really does come in to its own, however, will be its calculation capabilities. What is it saying about your analysis of variations? What is it telling you that you have missed both during the game and after it? Which of your moves is it having a heart attack to? What brilliancies is it telling you were missed? Ignore them at your peril, include them in your annotations … and, very importantly, credit the engine.

When you’re done, click ‘save’ and then ‘print’. You will hold in your hand one of the most valuable things to your chess you could ever posses. From here, you should return to your board, and play through the finished product again. At the end of the exercise, you will have a much better understanding of chess, and a better insight into your play. Not only will it present technical areas to target for improvement, but it will also highlight some bad habits with which you are shooting yourself in the foot.

And believe it or not, that’s the easy bit. The hard bit is putting it all right — and, just like me dear reader, you are aiming to be the first player to have ever completely succeeded … ;-)

John Lee Shaw

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The Second Front (1)

With the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings only recently having passed, it seems an appropriate time to to look at the second front in action on the chessboard. It is a basic rule of thumb of positional play that a single weakness is rarely enough to lose by itself. The key to the winning plan is usually to create and attack a second weakness, so as to stretch the defender’s resources beyond their limit.

This week’s game is a typical example. Exploiting his opponent’s errors in the early middlegame, Epishin establishes a monster passed d-pawn, which he pushes all the way to d7. But by move 29, he seems to have reached an impasse, as Black has managed to blockade the pawn at the last moment, and it is not obvious how White can force its further advance.

Epishin’s solution is very simple. At move 30, he pushes the h-pawn, intending to shove it all the way to h6, setting up mating threats against the black king. The combined task of defending against these threats, as well as maintaining the blockade of the d-pawn, soon proves too much for Black, and he loses in a few moves.

Steve Giddins

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Flipping Good

I wonder if you’re aware of the concept of Flip Teaching.

Flip Teaching reverses the traditional classroom – children learn their subject at home and practise at school.

If you’re teaching maths in this way you’ll get your students to watch an online lesson introducing a maths skill at home and then practise that skill within the classroom. Likewise, if you’re teaching history, children could watch an online lesson or read a chapter of a book about, say, Henry VIII, and then write an essay in the classroom. I could think of a few disadvantages of this method but it seems to me there are also many advantages.

It occurred to me that I’ve been running my chess classes in this way, in theory but not in practice, for many years. Unlike other chess teachers I don’t very often stand in front of a demo board giving a lesson unless I’m specifically asked to do so. My experience is that children learn more from playing games in fairly serious conditions than they do from watching me give a lesson on a demo board.

So here’s how Flip Teaching can work within the chess classroom.

Children who want to do well at chess need to do three things. Firstly, they need to play games under serious conditions, with feedback from a stronger player. Secondly they need to learn specific chess skills. Thirdly, they need to spend time solving puzzles on a regular basis. Now if you’re good enough to be on the tournament circuit you’ll be playing lots of games under serious conditions anyway, but most children within a primary school chess club will only be taking part in occasional competitions. So the main purpose of a primary school chess club, at least the way I run them (almost every other chess teacher here in the UK will disagree with me) is to enable children to play games in as close to possible tournament conditions. They can develop skills at home in various ways as long as we provide the parents with the appropriate resources and ensure that they help their children learn the skills. We would also provide resources for children to solve puzzles at home.

There are, it seems to me, many advantages in this. Junior chess clubs, by their nature, will include children of various ages with varying amounts of experience. If all children follow a predetermined course they will be able to progress at their own speed without having to spend 15 minutes or so watching their chess teacher demonstrating something which may well be too easy for some of the students and will certainly be too hard for others. Children will be able to repeat the lesson at home as often as they need, and pause or go back if there’s something they don’t understand. Parents will be able to help or learn with their children. The lesson could be available in different formats to suit children’s learning preferences. There could be a written version, an interactive version (like the lessons on chessKIDS academy), a video lecture on YouTube, a computer program set up to enable children to practise the skill, puzzles to reinforce children’s understanding of the skill. Children, with the support of their parents, can choose the combination of media that works best for them.

If instead you teach a lesson in the chess club, it will just be the teacher standing at a demo board or interactive whiteboard in front of the class. There won’t be time to ask questions, and if you want your pupils to spend time mastering the skill you’ve taught them they won’t have much time to play against their friends.

I believe strongly that the future of junior chess clubs lies in this approach to teaching. First, we need a syllabus, then we need all the coaching materials to back it up, in various formats.

I’m working on setting this up at the moment, and will provide more information later. Who will join me?

Richard James

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Theory and Practice

Improving your game requires effort in the form of studying. The greater the effort, the greater the improvement. No one is born with a chess gene that allows them to play like a Grandmaster from moment they first sit down at a chess board. We get better at chess though hard work. Like mastering a musical instrument, mastering chess requires a balance of theory and practice. Favoring one over the other can have a negative effect on your game. The balance of theory and practice is crucial if you wish to improve your playing ability. Theory and practice are the Yin and Yang of chess. An even balance of the two is the key that unlocks the gate that allows you to start your journey along the road to mastery.

This idea of carefully balancing theory and practice has been discussed and addressed in many books and countless articles, yet many serious beginners and intermediate chess players fail to balance their use of these two concepts. In fact, one of the reasons I’m addressing this issue is because many beginners I work with have a problem with balancing the two. Lets start off by defining, in chess terms, these two concepts.

To make things simple, I’ll define “theory,” as it relates to chess, as the study of the game and its subsequent principles. Therefore, the opening principles I’ve written about in past articles, can be considered theory. We study theory, the opening principles for example, to improve our opening game. We learn about these opening principles through books and DVDs. In reading/watching these books and DVDs, we are studying specific aspects of the game (specific theories), such as the opening. In order to apply a specific theory to your game you must first study it.

Practice, on the other hand, is actually playing chess. Like learning how to play a musical instrument, the novice chess player must practice his or her playing in order to progress or improve. You cannot master a musical instrument without practice and the same holds true for chess (or anything else you desire mastery of). Practice is where the rubber meets the road, as my chemistry professor used to say. Practice is the place in which (in this case the chessboard) you take what you’ve learned (theory) and test it out. You can study theory for eight hours a day, seven days a week, but unless you apply that theoretical knowledge to a real life situation (a game of chess), you’ll never know if it holds true. Chess theory is has little meaning unless it can be successfully tested on the sixty four square battlefield, and it is at this juncture that students often have trouble combining theory and practice.

It seems easy enough. The student studies the theoretical and then applies it to their game (practice). What could be easier, you study something and then test it out! However, the beginner faces a few hurdles when studying chess theory.

To become a good chess player these days, you can’t be a specialist. A specialist is someone who knows one of the game’s phases well but not the other two. For example, we all know someone who is good at opening play but becomes lost when entering the middle game. That person is an opening specialist and while he or she might play brilliantly during the opening, they often become lost when the middle game begins because they only studied the opening. You have to have an all around knowledge of the complete game. The beginner looking to truly improve must therefore study all three phases of the game and that’s where the trouble often starts!

The serious beginning student understands that he or she must put an equal amount of time into studying each phase of the game. Just knowing this however isn’t enough. Our student needs to chose their study materials well. This can be difficult because many chess book and DVD publishers advertise their products as being suitable for beginners when they’re not. Therefore, I would advise students to take a good look at a book’s contents, reading a few pages to see if it make sense or if it goes over your head. The holds true with DVDs. You can usually find a sample of the DVD online. Watch it and see if it makes sense. Unfortunately, simply acquiring the appropriate book or DVD for your skill set is only half the battle. Having to remember the numerous principles (theory) taught in various chess books/DVDs is the other half. This can be a big problem for the beginner.

Beginners learn the opening principles with relative ease. The reason for this is simple. All chess games have an opening phase. However, a beginner’s game may not reach the middle or end phase due to an early checkmate. This means that a beginning student will play through more openings than middle or endgames. The beginner might put a great deal of time into studying middle and endgame basics but may forget specific ideas because they never get that far in their own games, at least during the early part of their chess careers. Therefore, I suggest that you keep a sheet of paper with you as you study books/DVDs about the middle and endgames. One side of the sheet will be for the middle game while the other side is for the endgame. Write down key concepts to keep in mind when playing the middle and endgame. Create a key concept list.

For your middle game list you might write down key concepts regarding piece activity, pawn structure and passed pawn creation. On your endgame list you might write down key concepts regarding King activity, pawn structure, etc. The point is to keep a list of concepts you’ve learned in your studies. Read through the list before each game and keep it close by for reference during friendly games. By keeping this list and adding to it as you progress in your playing and studies, you’ll become a stronger player because the theory you’ve studied will become ingrained in your memory as you refer back to your list.

Chess improvement is really a balanced combination of theory (study) and practice (playing). All the theory in the world does a player no good unless her or she tries it out on the chessboard. Play as much chess as you can. I play constantly because it allows me to test out my new found knowledge. Like the old joke goes, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

Keeping notes from your studies and referring to them prior to play is an excellent way to reinforce your new found knowledge. I have taken this one step farther in my own training by keeping detail chess journals for each phase of the game. However, if you’re just starting out and are not quite a full blown chess lunatic, stick with a single sheet of paper for your notes. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

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Close finish in ICCF 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament 1st Division!

With just half a dozen games to finish in the 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament, the race is on between last year’s Champions, the “Pawn Stars” Team with 15/22, the “ICCF Warriors” Team with 14/21 and the “Scheming Mind A” Team with 13/22. The “Pawn Stars” Team consists of SIM Gino Figlio (PER); SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA); myself SIM John Rhodes (ENG) and Austin Lockwood, Team Captain (WLS) with an average ICCF rating of 2408. The “ICCF Warriors” Team consists of GM Nigel Robson (ENG); GM Raymond Boger (NOR); GM Mark Noble (NZL); SIM Ian Pheby and SIM Andrew Dearnley as non-playing Team Captain with an average ICCF rating of 2519. The “Scheming Mind A” Team consist of SIM Olli Ylönen (FIN); IM Janos Suto (ENG); SIM John Vivante-Sowter (ENG); César Jesús Reyes Maldonado (VEN) with an average ICCF rating of 2332. The Tournament Director and organizer is IA Neil Limbert.

You will find the latest results and games here on the ICCF website: -

www.iccf.com/event?id=37466

It is looking like the mighty “ICCF Warriors” Team, formed by Andrew Dearnley, will eventually overtake us but, whatever happens, we will have given them a good run for their money! Andrew has certainly put a strong team together and deserves success, he is also an International Arbiter and this year has qualified for both the International Master and Senior International Master Titles. Unfortunately, Andrew has been ill recently and we all wish him well again soon. Here is one of Andrew’s wins with Bird’s Opening which went towards his latest title: -

John Rhodes

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Pawn Moves in Front of Black’s Castled King: Looking at h6 and f5

I stopped by the Pittsburgh Chess Club recently, met someone new, and played a couple of quick casual games with him. I felt that one of the games we played was instructive, illustrating the theme of king safety in the middlegame (and by extension, thinking about this straight from the opening).

King safety and Pawn advances

One important theme when paying attention to King safety in the middlegame is sometimes expressed, too simplistically, as “don’t move Pawns in front of your castled King”. Let’s focus, for this article, on so-called classical development, versus modern development: we mean by “classical” that Bishops are developed toward the center rather than fianchettoed away from the center onto diagonals.

Taking the side of Black developing “classically” as an example, the maxim “don’t move Pawns in front of your castled King” means not moving the f, g, or h Pawns unless necessary. The tricky part of interpreting this advice is understanding what “necessary” really means, and also an advanced player will want to know not only when to do something when it is necessary, but when it is not necessary but nevertheless advantageous. I will ignore the advanced case in this post.

I would like to begin a series of articles on concrete guidelines for when it is good or bad to move a Pawn in front of one’s castled King. The quick game I just played illustrates two of the easiest considerations starkly.

Black’s h6 when White may create a diagonal threat on h7

In the game, Black made a serious error by playing an unnecessary 11…h6. First of all, White had no real threat to place a piece on g5. But more generally, even if there is such a threat, the cure may be worse than letting it happen.

Here is a rule of thumb: in classical positions where Black no longer has a Knight (usually on f6) protecting the King side, h6 is often a serious weakening move. This is because it prevents Black from being able to solidly playing the “other” defensive Pawn move in the future, g6. Being able to play g6 is often very important to block White from delivering a mating attack on the light-squared diagonal from b1 to h7. The move h6 weakens not only the h6 Pawn (if White has a dark-squared Bishop aiming at h6), but also weakens h7 light-colored square and the g6 light-colored square, making defense of the King much more difficult. For example, with only the f7 Pawn protecting the g6 square, if Black ever needs to put either a Pawn or a piece on g6 to block any attack, White can potentially attack that square with multiple pieces, outnumbering Black. This is the kind of forward looking that a chess player must attend to when creating a defensive middlegame plan out of the opening, especially as Black.

In the game, you can see each of these dire predictions come true. Being on the other side of the board, knowing about these weaknesses around you opponent’s King, you can often create a lethal attack very quickly!

In the annotations, note that if Black had just castled, and then defended with g6 only when forced to, the resulting position if White tried the same brute force mating plan against h7 would have been quite acceptable and solid for Black, with Pawns on f7, g6, and h7 blocking any quick mate. As White, I would therefore have refrained from the committal e5 advance, which has the disadvantage of ceding control of the d5 light-colored square and opened up the diagonal from a8 to h1 to my own King!

Black’s f5 to block a diagonal threat on h7

The final error by Black was that of not cutting losses by pushing back and at least blocking White’s powerful King side attack by fighting with well-timed f5. f5 looks very ugly, because White can take the f-Pawn en passant and leave Black with an isolated e-Pawn. For this reason, I have seen that many club players avoid playing such a move until it is too late to make maximum use of this blocking attempt/counterpunch.

When you are on the defensive, you have to ask yourself: what is the lesser evil, getting a weak Pawn and a King side that looks like Swiss cheese because of holes on g6 and h7, or getting mated through too-passive defense? If it seems that all other defenses will fail, choose to avoid getting mated, and choose to fight on even with an ugly-looking position. In fact, 13…f5 results in a position that, while rather unpleasant, at least offers opportunities for Black counterplay. Black does get rid of White’s powerful e5 Pawn, open up the f-file, and develop the Queen, all while fighting White’s center and avoiding getting suffocated to death.

The complete annotated game

Franklin Chen

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Playing With A Material Imbalance

Recently I went through a book on the middle game where a nice explanation was given on material imbalance. I have distilled these down to a few of points which might be useful to readers.

When you give up some material what should be the compensation?

1. Strong attack on opponent’s king: This is well known and don’t need any explanation. Any kind of material sacrifice can be given if you are getting a mating attack.

2. When your pieces are nicely coordinated and on the other hand your opponents are not. Here is the game Spielmann vs. Moller where Spielmann had sacrificed a queen for two minor pieces:

3. If you have a lead in development and can force your opponent king to stay in the centre, you can give up some material. Here is a nice game of Paul Morphy, normally I use this game for explaining use of pin in practice but it applies here too:

4. You get a strong passed pawn or pawns and your opponent can’t create a real blockade. I really enjoyed the following game when I was preparing against the Sicilian in the past. Rauzer sacrificed a piece sacrifice just to play better endgame. A nice explanation is given by Garry Kasparov in his DVD Play the Najdorf using the game Bronstein against Najdorf:

Ashvin Chauhan

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