Author Archives: DanielS

Post into Practice

My first game after last week’s post on the French Rubinstein was a French Rubinstein. I think that looking at Georg Meier’s games helped me think about being more active with Black particularly with the major pieces. So moves like 8…Qa5+ and 16…Rxd6 and later activity with the rooks and queen.

I’ve found that most players at my level don’t play 6.Nxf6, which is the most common master move, however White did so here.  I was unsure about playing Black’s key lever 7…c5 straightaway and the most common move after 7.Bg5 is 7… h6 which is what Nigel recommends. It’s so hard to remember!

In the Rubinstein White’s knight does sometimes come to e5 and can be very dangerous but it doesn’t seem right here and then coming to d3 felt a little awkward for White.  I was aware of the idea of pushing the e pawn as a way of activating Black’s light squared bishop and was pleased to have played it. I think seeing the potential of exploiting the pinned knight with 18…Bf5 was a result of my Chessity tactic training. Although I hadn’t looked at 19.g4 in reply which came as a surprise. I thought it was just a wild swing but it is what my engine suggests and I really should have considered it. I lost a lot of my advantage by not taking the g pawn with my knight but I didn’t analyse it very well and missed that after the exchanges on g4 I’d have Rg6 pinning White’s queen.

I like the look of the final position with his rooks and queen lined up on the e file and my rooks and queen lined up on the 2nd rank.

Dan Staples

Kramnik’s 10,000 A Month

I read that Kramnik looks through 10,000 games a month so as not to miss any innovations. I was impressed and inspired. However, I didn’t want to jump straight in at 10K so for this article I looked through 10.

Nigel advocates the Rubinstein French as a starting point for his students with Black. It’s an opening that I’ve struggled with and decided that I should look at some master games. The German GM Georg Meier has scored well with Black in this opening and his games are definitely worth studying. Here is one he wins quickly. Meier plays far more actively than I have. 12….Qd5 and 19….Rd2 weren’t moves that immediately occurred to me.

Dan Staples

Flatten Your Heart

I used to play the Torre with some success. I switched to the Colle when I did Nigel’s Opening Course. I think I will return at some point. In this game Black should have played for some central control with 5…d5 rather than …b6. I did take the center and should have pursued the idea of expanding there with 8.e5 (and at subsequent points thereafter) which could have been difficult for Black.

I was doing quite well with my knight taking on d6 and the queen and knight fork. My problem is one of seeking to calculate. I chose this complicated line rather than the simple and positionally good e5 at an earlier stage.  I (try) to live and learn. However, after move 15. I was doing well. I lost most of the advantage with 16.Bh6 rather than Qf4 – I was trying to get the queens off and simplifying material up.

That said, I was still better but managed to slowly dissipate my advantage. I think I felt that I should have got more from the game and on move 36 I lashed out with a very unsound attempt not seeing Black’s simple response and wound up losing.

Nigel introduced me to the Buddhist saying “Flatten your heart”. The idea is to not let your emotions control you and to learn to respond appropriately to ups and downs. This is a useful concept in chess.

Dan Staples

Suppressing The Opponent’s Counterplay

In his book My System Nimzowitsch put forward the idea of prophylaxis – shutting down the opponent’s counter chances. Nimzowitsch showed many examples to illustrate how important it can be to make a move which suppresses the opponent’s play. In the game below Nigel pointed out that 12. a3 rather than my 12. Rfe1 would have killed most of Black’s Queenside play. While I missed that Nigel said that he saw a lot of good positional play coming through in this game.

Dan Staples

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