In my lesson with Nigel today he flagged up (AGAIN) that I try too hard to force things in games. For those tennis fans out there he compared me to Dustin Brown trying to force winners when the Tiger Chess programme is about trying to emulate Federer by playing logical returns. The tactics – forehand winners – will still be there but they will come from a more natural place and the mistakes will be fewer.
Nigel said his programme was like a suit aiming encourage logical positional play. My games put him in mind of a man putting on a suit but then going mountain climbing – where the suit clearly doesn’t help so much.
He suggested that how a person wins early on when starting to play chess is hard to shake off and reinforces how they see things in their games. The antidote is to overlay my forcing move mindset with classic endgames and good positional play.
Here is an interesting video of a Capablanca – Tartakower game – New York 1924.
Nigel said I played this well, until I didn’t.
I had a minority attack and should have won a pawn on move 32. I decided to keep my bishop versus Knight. I thought I could weaken his Queenside enough that the long range power of the bishop would be worth it. And all rook ending are drawn of course. Nigel quickly disabused me of this error. He said Black would simply be a good pawn up. He could worry about winning the game later. Playing, as I did, 32…b4 made no sense to him.
Nigel though that my 20…Qf6 didn’t seem quite right and thought I had taken on d4 too early (18…cxd4).
My advantage dwindled and then I moved my King too far from my Kingside pawns and lost.
“I’m only bothered about things that will change the pawn structure.” – N Davies
I have a tendency to spend too long calculating and Nigel has advised me to spend my time considering the pawn structure and possible levers/ changes when it is my opponent’s move.
In this game I was very interested in Nigel’s ideas around 10.Na5 which would have prevented Black’s a5 and pressured b7 and c6.
Nigel found my 24.Nxe6 really quite horrible. I didn’t understand the strength of the knight on c5. My idea was to simplify and win the game with the extra pawn. However, it was still important to play the best moves and I made life much harder for myself. Nigel was clear that 24.Nxe6 gave up my best piece. Having now played through some example lines I am starting to see this.
Nigel commented that Knights with good outposts (such as this one on c5 – which would have been “really good” here – would work well with this pawn structure.
Ben is friend and former Battersea team mate. This was a QGD that we played at last years London Chess Classic. He played his attack very well.
I do feel uncomfortable with these opposite side castling QGDs. I don’t feel happy with Black’s attacks and need to play more!
In this game I remembered that it is necessary for Black to attack on the queenside to create counterplay. And this is achieved by pushing the a pawn. But I couldn’t remember (nor work out OTB) the way of doing it. I blundered with 14…b4 losing the a pawn for less than nothing. White easily shuts down Black on the queenside and can get on with things on the kingside with little to worry about. 14…Qa5 looks so natural with the benefit of hindsight. I think I worried about moving my queen away from my kingside and wanted to rush my counterplay.
Pawn levers are something I struggle with. Nigel highly recommends Hans Kmoch’s book Pawn Power in Chess and while I’ve read it and clearly need to do so again. I have found the language difficult but it is worth persevering with.
Nigel has advised me to spend my time thinking about the pawn structure when it’s my opponent’s turn.
When looking at this game with me he said the main thing for White in this structure is to develop the Kingside and control d5.
He (and me – with hindsight!) saw that 16. 0-0-0 is the wrong plan. The correct idea (before 0-0-0!) was to use the c4 lever (with the off chance of a b4 lever). The idea is to weaken Black’s pawns and gain access to his King.
My thinking needs to be Lever led. In his book Kmoch talks about the Headpawn – the pawn furthest forward. This is where our focus should be when looking for levers.
Here is a game that highlights my lack of structural understanding! It was helpful to go through it with Nigel. Below is the game with Nigel’s notes. Nigel explained the big problem of my 10.dxe5 was that it gave Black the c5 square. 10. b5 would have been better.
He showed me two games of Korchnoi’s games (including one against Nigel!) with similar structural themes.
Here is a great game by Capablanca. The game is below along with a link to a video analysis.
Capablanca plays Black in a Queens Gambit Declined.
Useful advice – when playing against hanging pawns it’s generally a good idea to go for piece exchanges.
15…c4 is an instructive move. The video provides Capablanca’s own thinking behind this move.
This was (another) game that made it clear to me that I need to learn a new d4 system and forget about the Stonewall. A strong player easily neutralises White’s initiative.
It was really good to go through the game with Nigel and I found his ideas about an e5 lever very instructive. His line starting 17.d4 is very interesting. I am terribly materialistic and tend not to look for sacrifices but this would have been very nice. I’m working to understand what makes this sacrifice worthwhile. As Nigel says the Bd2 becomes useful, White has control of the open e file and there are possibilities of his Knight coming into an attack on g5.
At the very end I started seeing things and blundered horribly. I was convinced that I couldn’t stop his King coming coming forward to e5 and wanted some lever on the Kingside. Clearly I can stop his King and 39. h5 would have been a dead draw. The marvels of the mind….
I enjoy playing this system against the Kings Indian. White throws all his queenside pawns up the board. I was pleased with the lever 14.a5 but I should have followed up with 15.bxc5 and 16.Qb1 when I would have had potential good outposts in the centre, control of the open b file and a weakness on a6 to work with.
26.g4 is an interesting move in the resulting rook and knight endgame that I will aim to remember. It aims to break up Black’s pawns and give the king a way out.
I had the edge at the end but it was complicated and as we were both short of time I was happy to take a draw.
I didn’t play particularly well however I was very pleased to do so well against such a strong player. I didn’t understand 6…Bd6 and became nervous about both Black’s bishops being pointed against my Kingside. Nigel explained that my fears were unwarranted and I should have played 7.Nc3 rather than 7. Ne5 (Nigel’s comments below). The game went on and I was no worse. Black wanted to win and sacrificed the exchange with 13…Rxf3.
It certainly unbalanced the position and on another day White’s greater understanding of the resulting positions could easily have won it. I was wrong to take his rook with my pawn (I was worried about my pawns being weak and losing more of them). I should have gone for greater activity by taking with the queen and dominating the kingside with Qf7 and then finding a nice home for her on h5. I made more mistakes especially by giving up my bishop for Black’s Knight and inflicting serious dark square weaknesses on myself. (I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the hang of light and dark square weaknesses!). Soon I was no longer better but Black blundered with 26…d3.