Author Archives: NigelD

About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.

What’s the Best Time Limit for Older Players?

A few weeks ago I played in my first rapidplay event since starting to play again, the English Rapidplay Championships. My overall result was OK, I finished in sole fourth place on 6.5/9 with an ECF rating performance of around my last published grade. On the other hand I found the experience ‘challenging’ to say the least.

This makes me wonder what the optimal time limit is for older players, and I would argue that the longer time limits are generally better. Fast time limits lead to serious levels of tension, which young players seem to negotiate better than the ‘oldies’. What may seem exciting and fun when you are young becomes unpleasant and stressful as you get older.

There is another factor that may have an influence, that of stamina for longer games. I guess this may be what influenced Garry Kasparov in his choice of fast time limits when he played again recently. But as he was probably disappointed with the outcome his choice fails to convince. Frankly I think he would do better with classical time limits.

Of course we do not need to guess, it is possible to work it out. There is plenty of data at the FIDE web site that includes the ages of players and their ratings at different time limits. The players can be divided into different age groups and their ratings compared. If I am right the older players should, on average, have lower ratings at the faster time limits.

Nigel Davies

A Low Maintenance Chess Style

It’s not always easy for players to continue playing through busy periods in their lives. Going off to tournaments is time consuming in itself, and then there’s the issue of preparation. It’s this latter consideration that I would like to address here.

Players who like playing sharp openings in order to gain an early initiative are going to struggle to find time for maintenance. Opening theory is constantly changing and they will struggle to stay up to date with sharper lines. The obvious solution would be for them to switch to quieter lines when they find themselves with less time. But the problem with switching is twofold. First of all they may not understand the new stuff as well. And it can also be out of tune with their entire approach.

For this reason it can make sense to adopt a more solid approach from the start. Instead of teaching just gambits, tactics and attacks, why not focus on solid openings, strategy and endgames? Many junior coaches will argue that kids find such things boring. I would argue that it depends how they are taught.

One player who seems to have adapted well to a busy lifestyle is GM Jonathan Parker. Playing quiet openings and relying on middle game skill is serving him well in the few games that he plays. Here’s an example from a couple of years back:

Nigel Davies

Crawling In With The King

Here’s a game of mine from the recent Manchester Open which was very much a strategic affair. I improvised the early 6.Nc3 and 7.Qc2 and fortunately managed to get a strong position in the early middle game.

The decisive moment came when Black played 23…Ng5 rather than 23…Bg5, which allowed me to saddle him with a really bad bishop and lots of light square weaknesses. My king just marched in:

Nigel Davies

Counterattack in the Queen’s Gambit Declined

Here is a dramatic game in the Queen’s Gambit Declined Exchange Variation. My Dad showed me this one so I could see the strength of a Black rook on the third rank, both defending the weak pawn on c6 and menacing White’s king. A particularly instructive move was 29…h5 which saves Black’s king from back rank problems and brings up another attacker, if only a pawn.

Sam Davies

No Gold For Rossolimo

Many chess enthusiasts know about Frank Marshall’s brilliancy against Livitsky in which he sacrificed his queen, probably because gold coins were then thrown on the board. On the other hand very few people will know of Nicolai Rossolimo’s very similar sacrifice against Paul Reissmann, which was also a better game. Was this because Marshall was better known? Possibly.

Here anyway are the two games so that readers can judge for themselves. One thing is clear though, there was no gold for Rossolimo:

Nigel Davies

The Comeback Trail, Part 18

It’s all very well to have good ideas on the drawing board, in practice they might not work. History is littered with great theories and good intentions which ended up backfiring horribly.

Chess is like that too. We might have the idea to learn a really ‘good’ defence against 1.e4, such as the Sicilian Najdorf, only to find that the learning and upkeep required is simply impractical.

How should we combat this tendency? Essentially by listening carefully to the feedback we get from implementing our ideas in practice. Are they working as expected? What were the problems and/or concerns that arose? Making notes can be very useful in this regard, for example by keeping a tournament diary.

Experience has taught me to be very wary about making big chess improvement plans, preferring instead to feel my way and listen carefully to the feedback I’m getting. There have been times where I kept a tournament diary, and the learning experience proved to be invaluable.

One thing that kept coming up was basic opening preparation, having a game plan against the various things my opponents could throw at me. The answers didn’t need to be the best and sharpest available, it was simply a question of getting a playable middle game position.

Did I go home and do the necessary repairs? Sometimes, but not always. And the problem was in getting distracted by some more grand plans.

Nigel Davies

The Comeback Trail, Part 17

Thus far my comeback has gone better than expected. I have finished first (either jointly or on my own) in all three tournaments I have played in despite taking a half point bye in the first round of each of them. Out of the 12 games played there have been 10 wins and 2 draws with a rating performance that is around my previous peak in the mid 1990s.

Why does it seem to be going OK? For one thing I’ve been doing chess for around 20 hours a week despite not playing, either working with students or preparing material for Tiger Chess. When you teach something you learn a lot in the process, and during this time I’ve become much better at endgames and certain position types.

It’s harder of course if you do relatively little on chess, which I suspect has been the case with Garry Kasparov. He’s still a tremendous player but his other interests seem to have distracted him. And as recent events have shown he is not as good as he used to be:

Nigel Davies

Beating a Grandmaster

I came across this game recently and thought it worth publishing. It features a young Christer Hartman (who went on to become an International Master) beating a well known Grandmaster with a queen sacrifice.

The opening did not go well for Hartman, who lost a pawn to 10.Bxh7+. But the opposite colour bishops gave him some attacking chances on the kingside, and he cleverly set up the ingenious 21…Qxg2+.

Benko obviously missed this shot, as had he chosen 21.Nfd5 he would still have been well on top:

Nigel Davies