Category Archives: V.Strong/Master (1950 plus)

O’Kelly Crusher

This week I’m sharing a smashing game by a teammate of mine, Chris Briscoe, played in the UK’s Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) in March. I manage Surbiton, a team in Division 3, which this year has over 60 teams competing for just three Division 2 promotion spots. Chris is our regular Board 1 player and we are fortunate to have him – he previously played for Wood Green, which is usually near the top of Division 1.

Angus James

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Amatuer Versus Master: Game Six

My opponent in this game is from Russia (I think Siberia) and is the second highest rated player in this section. At the time that I am writing this, Norchenko has one win and four draws, including the one with me, and is in second place in this section. I am in third place with five draws and one loss. So far, there are only four wins and thus four losses in this section. The remaining 13 concluded games are all draws.  I do believe that the ultimate winner of this section will be whoever gets a plus score. The top two places in this section advance to the next round.

When this game started I decided to play the White side of the Sicilian Defense because I wanted to try the Smith-Morra Gambit on him. I almost never play the White side of the Sicilian Defense in a rated game, but I did this time. I messed up the move order and decided not to play the gambit because the move order that I played favored Black. After I made this decision updates to my database showed that I could have played the Smith-Morra Gambit and been OK.

Black’s fourth move surprised me a little, as did many of his moves afterwards. I had never seen this line or variation in any other game that I have played before or after this one. Fortunately, most of what he played was in my database. When he varied from my database I was able to figure out good enough moves to hold the draw.

From move number 19 on we were out of my database. On move number 26 I played what the chess engines considered to be a second-best move. The “better” line would still have been even and thus I would still end up with a draw. I played what I thought was the more impressive or cuter line.

I believe that this is the highest rated player that I have drawn on ICCF.

Mike Serovey

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Tactical Oversights

It is remarkable how small tactics can finish games quickly, even where Grandmasters are concerned.

Looking at the recent Chebanenko Rapid Open there were two games between GMs that ended decisively in less than 25 moves. Shirov was on the winning side of both.

I am struck by how easy he made it look to take down these GMs, without really doing anything special. They just miscalculated and Shirov took full advantage with some precise play. The clock is a factor, but I doubt either of his victims were in time trouble when they made their mistakes.

Here Shirov plays an Advance against the French and Black seems to be playing fine up until the 17th move and suddenly one tactical oversight ends the game quickly:

Here Shirov starts off playing a Rossolimo against the Sicilian and then he moves back into Open Sicilian territory with 5.d4!? His opponent responds well, and even starts attacking along the h-file, but when he slips up Shirov pounces.

Such tactical oversights are extremely difficult to completely avoid. You would have to literally check-every-move (CEM) your opponent can make at every turn, and that is just not possible with time constraints as they are with tournament play. To help mitigate the risk, you can develop an intuition for when it is a good idea to use CEM, and only adopt it when the position demands it. For example, in highly tactical positions or critical moments. There are routine moves, and there are moves where accuracy is important and getting it right could effect the outcome of a game. Spending more time considering your alternatives at these key moments is justified. I guess in the case of these games, these GMs’ needed to do more checking at certain moves, but unfortunately for them, they didn’t. Hats off to Shirov for demonstrating the flaws in their plans so clinically.

Angus James 

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Sometimes it is Better to be Lucky Than Good

This game was my last game in this section to finish. My opponent is from England. My opponent kept declining my draw offers because he thought that he had a better pawn structure.

I was, once again, mislead by the chess engines into playing an inferior line and could have lost the endgame if my opponent found the winning idea on move number 41. Instead, he moved his King in the wrong direction and then agreed to a draw.

I ended up with an even score in this section which netted me third place. Although I have won several Walter Muir sections, and these are played on the ICCF server, this third place finish is my best result so far in an international section. The Walter Muir sections are for players in the USA only and I am not allowed to use chess engines in those events.

On move number 6 White captures on c6. This gets me out of what I wanted to play, but I usually do OK with it as Black.

Although White grabs some space in the Center with his pawns on e5 and f4, he leaves his King a bit naked. I was never able to take advantage of that, though.

On move number 15 both players still have their kings in the Center and neither one can castle. I never did get to castle my King.

On move number 27 I pinned White’s Bishop to his King. After some fancy moves we traded off some minor pieces and rooks, but I never got an advantage out of it. On move number 28 I got convinced by Houdini 3 that the line that I played was better than the one that I wanted to play. I now think that the other line that I rejected was better.

On move  number 36 I was up a doubled pawn. I also had two passed pawns. Even so, I was unable to win.

Mike Serovey

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Quality Over Quantity

Every chess player wants to improve at chess and for that we already have books suggested by coaches, playing games, doing tactical exercises, endgames etc etc. Yet I have observed a few things among the people who are working hard but failed to improve as much as they might have wanted to or deserved. What are the reasons? I will try to answer.

Here is a position:

Looking at the position you might be wondering what is new in it? It is the Lucena position. It can be won by building a bridge and most of the players know this very well. But how many of you really know that how to reach this position? Are there any rules which can be used? What are the exceptions? My point is that rather than reading too much it’s better to learn few things but try to master them. Quality is always better than quantity.

Now following this example let’s say you have learned everything that has been discussed above for this position. Yet in practical games you don’t reach it for a long time so there are more chances that you forget the ideas/rules. So repetition is a must, but it is often ignored. If I talk about myself, I have read many books but haven’t repeated the process, and I can see that this accumulated knowledge is wiped out with time, not completely but partially.

Accordingly we should look at developing a strong bedrock of knowledge rather than trying to learn lots of new things all the time. And this is achievable if you focus on knowing a few things perfectly and then revise them periodically so that they’re never forgotten.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Amateur Versus Master – Game Five

This game is from the final round of the 2011 Golden Knights Correspondence Chess Championship. Because John and I agreed to email our moves to each other instead of using snail mail, this game finished well ahead of the other ones in this section. The rest of my games in this section are still in the openings or are transitioning to the middle games.

John is the lowest rated opponent that I have in this section. I lost playing the Black side of the Benko Gambit. This loss, combined with a few other ones, has convinced me to stop playing the Benko Gambit in correspondence chess. I used to win whenever my opponent fully accepted my gambit. Lately, I have been losing whenever White shoves that passed pawn down my a file!

I am the only non master in this section. Therefore, I have no delusions of grandeur about winning this section. I am simply trying to get an even score and this loss will not help me any.

On move number 6 I decided to change up my usual move order because I was hoping to confuse my opponent and thus gain a psychological advantage. This almost worked. John did get confused a little, but I lost anyway.

Whenever White allows Black to capture the Bishop that is on f1 White gives up the right to castle. This is where Black gets his compensation for the sacrificed pawn. I am no longer able to keep my advantage in this variation.

Black completes his basic development on move number 11 and then White begins his assault by moving that passed a pawn down my throat. I still need to find Black’s best reply to that.

By move  number 14 Black is  bringing his rooks and knights over to the Queenside to launch his counter attack. White is going to break open the Center.

On move  number 15 White anchors a Knight on b5 and this Knight creates problems for me for quite a while afterwards.

Looking back at move number 16, I now doubt that trading my fianchettoed Bishop on c3 was the best move for Black. Allowing White to get a pawn on c4 created many problems for me. From move number 21 on Black is losing.

Mike Serovey

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What To Do About Gambits

Speedy development is often worth the investment of a pawn in the opening. Examples include the Smith-Morra Gambit of the Sicilian 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 when White has a very promising initiative for the pawn that often brings dividends. Devotees of this line can become highly attuned to its nuances. If that is the case you have to ask yourself as Black whether taking them on in their most familiar territory is the most intelligent thing to do. You might decide it is better to avoid it than to try to refute it. Even if you like spending many an hour with opening books, there is no substitute for hours of practice playing the line over and over again – which White will of course be doing. Perhaps Smith-Morra Gamiters’ would find the Caro-Kann or the French Defence, or something else, really annoying. If so, play that against them! It is wise to get your opponent out of their familiar territory.

This is the sort of thing that can be considered if you know your opponent and you’re playing them in an over-the-board game. Of course, if someone plays a gambit against you in a correspondence game and you are allowed to use software for help, then that is a different matter. For example, silicon monsters nowadays are less impressed with the Smith-Morra than we humans are. Below is one of my own correspondence games against a line of the Smith-Morra that I would have found difficult to play against over-the-board. But, with assistance from HIARCS, I found it easier to deal with. It takes a long time, but eventually White’s initiative dissipates and then it is all about whether Black can convert the ending. The knight and pawns ending was particularly pleasant to play for Black. If you would like to play some correspondence chess online, try FICGS – The Free Internet Correspondence Games Server.

Angus James 

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Using a Lead in Development

Getting a lead in development, by being efficient about how we develop our pieces, is the main aim of the opening.

How can you be efficient about development? For a start, think about how you can mobilise all of your pieces quickly, not just one or two. Think about where you can move your pieces so that they are doing something that influences the important central squares. Don’t make the common beginner’s error of moving the same piece more than once in the opening, unless it is essential. Think about where your king would be safest and make that happen as part of your opening strategy.

The game below is a classic example of what can happen if one side gets a lead in development out of the opening. Take a look at the position after White’s 12th move. White’s opening has not been a great success. His king is still stuck in the centre and he is 2 moves away from castling. In contrast, Black has castled his king to safety and has all his minor pieces ready for action and is 1 move away from connecting his rooks. To take advantage of the lead in development, Black needs to move fast. He realises that, to attack the enemy king before it has the chance to castle, he has to open lines to the king, and he invests a piece to do that as quickly as possible. By the 19th move, White’s centre is completely destroyed, and it is only a matter of time before Black’s better developed pieces move in to finish White off.

Angus James

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Going Off Piste

Going “off piste” or “off the beaten track” in the opening has its merits. For a start, you get your opponent thinking earlier, which is no bad thing if you’re fed up of 10-20 opening book moves being fired at you in the first 10 seconds of a game. You can explore the positions that occur after your opening at your leisure at home, while your opponent will most probably have to sweat at the board trying to fathom what the heck is going on in the position. At the very least you are going to get a time advantage, and that puts your opponent under pressure.

The opening after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 is very well-known. The most common moves here are by far 3.Bb5 (Ruy Lopez), 3.Bc4 (Italian Game), or 3.d4 (Scotch Opening), and to a lesser extent 3.Nc3 (Three Knights/Four Knights).

What about other options on move 3? Well, there are a number of reasonable alternatives to consider. Top of the list is perhaps the Ponziani (3.c3), which Carlsen has used as a surprise weapon. Or perhaps it isn’t that much of a surprise – he is becoming famed for his use of unpopular, but perfectly reasonable openings, with the aim of getting a playable position out of the opening, and just outplaying his opponents from an equal position in the middle game and/or ending. Below is an example of Carlsen’s use of the Ponziani:

Another line worth considering at this juncture is 3.Be2. This goes by the name of the Inverted Hungarian Opening. So called, because White’ s bishop on e2 resembles Black’s bishop on e7 in the Hungarian Defence. It doesn’t look like that much, but it seems fine. Below is a recent game from the Bronstein Memorial Open, which saw it adopted by a 2700+ player, Baadur Jobava. Presumably he didn’t fancy seeing his lower rated opponent’s opening preparation, and played something unexpected, but perfectly playable, and consequently won very quickly. A lesson to us all.

Angus James

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“Satisficing” as a Strategy for Rapid Games

I played a rapid game bright and early this AM. I was up by 6:30 AM and playing before 7AM. My opponent and I were pretty much equally rated.

I’ve been watching Nigel’s ChessBase video on the QGD Exchange Variation all week. It’s an excellent video for chess improvers, since Nigel focuses on plans and ideas rather than memorizing lengthy variations. The last few clips discuss how the lessons one learns with focused attention on a particular opening can often be transferred to other openings.

A case in point was my game this morning. I chose to play 1.e4 and my opponent decided to play a Caro-Kann Defense. One of the examples Nigel demonstrates on his DVD is a Caro-Kann Exchange Variation that transforms to something like a QGD Exchange Variation with colors reversed. I opted to try for that. We didn’t get there, but we did get to a game where I could use some of the strategies from the QGD Exchange Variation.

Rather than adopting the minority attack, I decided to use my IQP to lever open the center. I consider the position in the diagram below and decided that 12.d5 was a strong move. I had three pieces defending my IQP on d5. Black had only two pieces defending d5 and had an undefended bishop on d6.

Black made a dubious move with 13…Rb8. Black should have played 13…Ne4. My evaluation of that position was roughly equal. We could have had a good game with reasonable chances for both sides. My reply was strong, trading knights on f6 and then bringing my rook from f1 to d1, where I could hassle the black bishops.

Black made a futile piece sacrifice, 16…Bh2. Black was down a piece with no compensation, except the h2 pawn. I didn’t make a serious blunder in this game, so the fruitless bishop sacrifice was enough to cost Black the game.

My weak play in this game was in the endgame. I waited much too long to get my connected, unopposed queen pawns moving. Delaying their movement didn’t change the outcome of the game. Two pieces up after 29.NxR, I was reasonably confident of the win throughout the endgame. Mobilizing my queen pawns earlier would have shortened the endgame. It was better endgame technique. Inefficient play is to be avoided, especially for us older players during a weekend tournament. Extra moves require extra time and mental energy, which increases opportunities for fatigue in later games and that can lead to costly mistakes.

I didn’t consciously relax my game during the endgame. I didn’t look for the quickest win, either. With rapid games, there is usually not enough excess time to calculate the most efficient solution. Instead, I often “satisfice.” I look for a satisfactory solution that is sufficient to win. That’s what I did in this game. I “satisficed” my way to a winning endgame.

Glenn Mitchell

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