Pawn Imbalances – What Capablanca Would Aim For

Time is short for most of us. So when I go through my games with Nigel one key thing in my mind is to get clear on where I first go wrong.

It won’t usually be a blunder but rather an error in the opening or early middlegame that I can improve on next time.

In this game played in the Yorkshire Woodhouse Cup it was move 8 (8…a6 rather than 8…c5).

c5 is the most common pawn lever in the French and I should have played it. However, I was worried about White playing Bb5 and simplifications. I asked Nigel to give me a sample variation to understand how the game might unfold. He did this in the variation starting 8…c5 and talked about what Capablanca would be interested in. I have got out Chess Fundamentals and found it very good. I have played the resulting position against an engine.

The game is an good illustration of my lack of positional understanding and I should have grabbed White’s hand when he offered me a draw on move 32!

Dan Staples

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Not to be Repeated

This was a game I deserved to lose. I went wrong at move 4 and is a lesson in playing the opening stages with more care. It wasn’t a mistake leading to loss of material but it restricted possibilities. I made that mistake on move 10. I gave up the centre and was on the brink on getting crushed. White allowed me to unravel and escape.


Dan Staples

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Levers: Instructive Positional Errors

This was a game in our Summer Tournament. I was White against a Leningrad Dutch. I misplayed the opening and didn’t give myself a clear pawn lever plan to play for. Nigel’s comments on the possible lever play later are worth studying.

Once I had got my bishop to f3 I was back on with a possible future e4 lever. However, my recapture with the knight rather than the queen on move 14 is an instructive error. If I had taken with the queen I would have kept the possibility of playing e4 alive. Taking with the knight showed that I wasn’t aware of the key plan.

My move 34 was poor. If I had swapped my knight for his bishop it would as Nigel pointed out have been a simple winning pawn endgame. I think I was still thinking of the way my knight had dominated his bishop and wasn’t alive to the favourable transition.

Dan Staples

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C-file control – Collateral Complications

I think I played this game okay – 6/10 perhaps. I misplayed the opening somewhat and won with a nice tactic. As ever, Strategically wanting but I live and learn!(?).

I got myself in trouble with 23…Qc7. Nigel said 21..f4 and again 23…f4 would have been the way he would have played it. I did consider the f4 idea but as I couldn’t see a “concrete” advantage I rejected it. A good illustration of how a Grandmaster sees things differently to me.

12…Nb8 is interesting – Nigel is a big fan of backwards Knight moves.

19…fxe4 would also have been an improvement.

Nigel concluded by saying “Messy game, but in a way this was an example of ‘collateral complications’ helping Black control the c-file.”

Dan Staples

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Lesson in Endgame Pawn Structure

This was an interesting game. Black had a good plan against White’s queenside expansion. His Na6 was challenging. Nigel suggested some improvements for White around move 10. He liked my 17. c5 but thought it needed an engine to be confident. And he showed how Black could have come out in front in the resulting complications.

I found Nigel’s analysis at the end was very helpful. He proposed 35. Rc6 rather than my Kd3. His line would have kept the single pawn island for White and a potential e4 outpost for his Knight. If after my 35. Kd3 Black had played 35…exd4+ Black would have started to exchange some pawns and White would have two pawn islands.

After 38. Nd3 Black has nice outposts for all his pieces.

Dan Staples

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Endgame 1 – Triangulation Training

I found this endgame lecture by IM Eric Rosen interesting particularly on triangulation.

His puzzle, reproduced below, was entertaining too. White to move and win.

I’ve been studying Nigel’s Endgame Course and I’ve been working on knight and bishop checkmate. Hard going. I watch his videos and think I’ve got it but then when I practice against the engine it isn’t exactly smooth!

Dan Staples

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Gathering the Acorns that are at Hand

Here is a game I played in our Club Championship. Nigel’s comments on the strategic elements of the position are very interesting and the variations he suggests are illuminating.

I played the ridiculous 14.g4 because I didn’t understand the features of the position. I tried force something that shouldn’t be there.

I had a chance with 20.Qh4 but didn’t deserve anything.

Dan Staples

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Endgame Culture Immersion

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.

Dan Staples

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Pretty Potent Pawn Play Followed By Bad Blunder

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.

Dan Staples

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QGD Horror Show

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.

Dan Staples

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