Author Archives: DanielS

Listen to Your Pawn Levers

I’m enjoying using Audible. I read a lot with my work and it’s helpful to have the option of listening to books rather than read. It gives my eyes a rest. I’m currently listening to Deep Work by Cal Newport. He recommends isolating yourself from distractions in order to do more valuable work. It’s an interesting book. One thing he talks about to help you do the work that I had also read elsewhere was Jerry Seinfeld’s technique of marking a cross on a calendar every day he worked on new material. Thus building a chain of crosses. Seinfeld made it a must to never break the chain. It could be useful in terms of our chess praxis.

This was an instructive loss – the notes are Nigel’s. The major theme here was the need for White to play the e4 pawn lever which, as you can see, I did not appreciate.

Dan Staples

“Very Exciting, A Good Scalp” ND

This was a good win against a strong opponent. Nigel commented diplomatically on my 4th move that he wasn’t sure he would want to put his Bishop on g5. I agree 4. Qb3 would have been a better way to play.

Nigel also didn’t really like Bxd6, possibly allowing Black a strong centre and advised that c4 was probably a better lever than e4 in this position. Pawn levers are something Nigel introduced me to I still have problems with. I’ve struggled with Hans Kmoch’s Pawn Power in Chess a key ND recommendation.

Nigel made a number of good positional suggestions which do seem to flow better. Also worth noting his key suggestion that I do some deep breathing at move 27!

Dan Staples

The Solid French

I think this is an interesting video by GM Yasser Seirawan. He looks at one of his student’s games in a French Exchange. I am searching for greater clarity when explaining to students why the centre is so important in chess and this helps. I’ve always talked about the centre as being e4 d4 d5 and e5. In this Yasser talks about a bigger centre with the corners f3 c3 c6 and f6 and describes it as being higher ground.

I follow it with a game I played in the York Summer Tournament last week. A good win for the Solid (Rubinstien) French. I can’t say I would have resigned when White did but it is 90 minutes a game and I was well ahead on the clock.  Akiba!

Dan Staples

Nourish Your Back Brain

I was pleased with this game, a quick win… at the time. However, Nigel really didn’t like 12.g3. He said that while I brought my usual good calculation and energy to bear…. “very strong players use their back brains a lot”. He advised looking at a lot of QGA IQP positions.

I played 12.g3 so as to put my bishop on f4. I thought that if the pawns advance on the Q-side this would stop a rook coming to b8. I couldn’t see the point of playing it to g5. However, rather than seeing the clear reason for a move I think the point is to see the ugliness of g3 and in future not to entertain it as a possibility. You don’t want to block the third row for a possible rook lift. Nigel’s variation at move 12 makes a lot of sense to me now and is far more aesthetically pleasing.

The theme for Black of playing Nb4 to d5 was unknown to me then and apparently to Black, thankfully. It is an important theme in such positions.

Dan Staples

Endgame Activity vs Weak Pawns

I thought this game was worth sharing because it has some interesting themes (that I clearly didn’t understand!) and three great master games that Nigel showed me.

Matisons,H-Rubinstein,A Karlsbad 1929

Kindermann,S (2490)-Gurevich,M (2515) Budapest 1987

Brunner,L (2525)-Kortschnoj,V (2625) Nuremberg 1990

It’s a Rubinstein French Defence from Nigel’s opening course and if played now I would go 7…Qc7 rather than 7…cxd4.

Dan Staples

ND – “Really good, just don’t repeat 3.Nc3!”

This is a game I played against John Duggan at the excellent Coulsdon Chess Club run by Scott Freeman. Nigel said it showed substantial progress apart from the ugly 3.Nc3. I think 8.e4 is instructive as a key pawn lever against the Dutch. I was pleased with my calculation of the ending. I allowed Black to promote his pawn next to his King, lost because of my King and queen mating net.

Dan Staples

Endgame Strategy: Capablanca – Ragozin, Moscow 1936

Nigel’s analysis of this instructive Capablanca endgame is included in the Tiger Chess Endgame Course. It also appears in Shereshevsky’s excellent book – Endgame Strategy.

Capablanca wrote “White’s plan is to prevent the advance of the c pawn (after which the b pawn could become weak) and to control the entire board up to the fifth rank. This is achieved by moving the King to e3, and by placing the rook at c3, the Knight at d4, and the pawns at b4 and f4. After he has attained such a position White will be able to advance his Q-side pawns.”

Dan Staples

Pupil Referral Unit and Chessity

I talked to teachers at a Yorkshire Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) today about ways of teaching their students.

Part of my role for Chess in Schools and Communities is to reconnect with schools we’ve taught in previously. We taught at this PRU a few years ago. I was really pleased to learn that chess is still going strong there. All 50 children across the two sites play chess every Friday afternoons.

Children referred to a PRU don’t tend to stay there for long so following our curriculum wouldn’t make sense. I showed them the following variants:

Pawn game
Rook game
Pirate chess
First check

I’m back there later in the term for a simul with the children.

I taught at a PRU in London. On my first day six big children (I was used to primary sized ones) came to the classroom. While they did sit down and we did ‘chess’ for a bit they soon got up and exited through the window. Not a great start but things improved!

Nigel encourages students to do regular calculation training. I’ve found Chessity an excellent resource for this and endeavour to do a daily practice. Their free app is useful.

This is a puzzle (that I got wrong!) that struck me as interesting.

Dan Staples

Botvinnik – Toran, Palma de Mallorca 1967

As with most of us my time is limited. My current chess practice involves solving Chessity daily tactics puzzles and following Nigel’s Endgame Course at his Tiger Chess website.

I was introduced to this excellent endgame through the course. This was instructive with regard to the importance of centralising the King. The move 22.Rxd5 kept the game alive.

Dan Staples

Advancing the Pawn without a Counterpart

My game below was played against the Metropolitan Police in New Scotland Yard which was a very interesting venue. The annotations are Nigel’s. The key things to take away for me were my risky Queen side castling and Nigel’s comments on my move 35.h4. He explained that 35.f4 was better and followed the ‘Capablanca rule’ in Chess Fundamentals that we should advance the pawn without a counterpart.

Dan Staples