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

Amateur Versus Master: Game Eleven

This chess game is one of my recently completed games form the 2011 Golden Knights Final. Bonsack is the second master that I have drawn in this section and the second highest rated in this section at 2344. Unless I am mistaken, I have drawn a few 2300 rated players in correspondence chess, but I have yet to beat one. So far, I have one loss, two draws and no wins in this section.

I am moving out of my current apartment this weekend and my opponent knew that I was taking a month off from chess for this move. I think that he felt sorry for me and that may be why he offered a draw in a position that favored him. Whatever the real reason for the draw, I’m glad.

This game transposed into a Benoni Defense. At the points in this game where I say “slightly better is” or “possibly better is”, it is because the chess engines do not agree on the moves and I am unsure myself.

At move number 11 I decided to keep the position closed for a while so that I could restrict the range of White’s bishops. In previous chess games against masters I have gotten burned when my opponent’s bishop pair came to life. I avoided that in this chess game.

Once White’s Knight was firmly established on b5, I could never dislodge it without giving him a passed pawn on the Queenside. That did not favor me, so I eventually decide to go for play on the Kingside by opening it up. That is when White started moving his King over to the Queenside. Not much happened after that.

Mike Serovey

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Remember Games and Patterns

You might have heard that Carlsen can remember numbers of positions and recall them over the board in a limited amount of time. In the book GM-RAM, by Rashid Ziatdinov, the author emphasises remembering key positions and games and claims that “if you know just one of important classical games, you will be able to become a 1400 level player, to be world champion you will need to know 1,000 such games”. This may be too much but we can’t deny fact that remembering these games cold will definitely help you towards chess improvement.

I tried different ways to remember games, for example playing them over the board many times, guessing them move by move, using Chess Position Trainer etc. But they didn’t work that well for me.

Then I tried one more thing and succeeded. This method uses lots of time but definitely works; after a month without playing them through a second time I am able to remember the games and their critical positions.

The way to do this is to take a book of your favourite player where he has annotated his games. Now we are going to annotate his games in our words rather than going through author’s annotations first. You can use different software but a pen and paper works best for me.

The most important thing is that your focus must be on one direction but with inherent flexibility (if your opponent blunders you must be able to punish him). This tends to be missing from the play of amateur play as they fight in different directions. Write down your ideas for each move (for both White and Black) and don’t worry if you repeat the same thing over a series of moves. Once you finish it (normally I take 4 to 6 hours) go to the experts annotations and compare. You will find that now it is very easy to understand the author’s points and your mistakes, this wouldn’t have happened if you went directly to the author’s annotations .

It is also wise to go for a second opinion also, if someone has explained the same game. Players who have the time and work like hell will definitely get benefit from this!

If you find this is very hard and time consuming, first watch this video:

Ashvin Chauhan

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Clash of the Titans

OK, both my opponent and I are experts, not yet masters. Still, this chess game was hard fought by our chess engines! We both were posting our analysis on the playchess.com server. I could see what he was analyzing with Stockfish 5.0 SE and he could see what I was analyzing with Houdini and Deep Fritz. Truthfully, I doubt that either one of us would have found half of the moves that we played had this been an OTB chess game. Again, ICCF rules allow us to use chess engines.

This chess game is one of two draws that I have in this section. I also drew the player that Miloslav defeated, so Miloslav is temporarily in first place, I am in second place and Don Pedro is in third place. If I can finish my remaining games with at least a draw in each one I may remain in second place in this section.

Against unknown opponents I will often play the Modern Defense. It did not take long for my opponent to get me out of my database of games and into unique analysis. About half way through this game I realized that someone was anonymously following my analysis on playchess.com. From that point on, my opponent was playing whatever moves Stockfish recommended. There were a couple of times in the thick of it that my chess engines thought that something else was better for White. The notes that I made during this game (see below) explain the rest.

Mike Serovey

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World Rapid Chess Championship

The FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship 2014 recently concluded with Magnus Carlsen winning, followed by Fabiano Caruana in 2nd place and Viswanathan Anand in 3rd.

There was an interesting endgame between the FIDE World Champion, Carlsen, and former World Champion, Anand. Carlsen uncharacteristically went wrong in an ending. In taking a pawn with his knight he missed a simple rook move that skewered his bishop and knight. Anyone can make such mistakes, especially in rapid chess, but when the World Champion does it, it’s called a blunder! Despite this loss, it wasn’t enough to stop Carlsen becoming the 2014 World Rapid Champion. You can view the ending play with commentary on the clip below.

Angus James

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Ten

This game is another recently completed draw against a chess master. This game is from the final round of the 2011 Golden Knights Correspondence Chess Championship. The first 18 moves were in my database. I was on my own from move number 19 on. So far, I have no wins, one loss and one draw in this section. However, I do have an advantage against a 2300 rated player that I drew in the previous round. We will have to wait and see how that game works out.

Because both sides played aggressively and made solid developing moves neither one of us got an advantage at any point in this game. My strategy against this higher rated player was to trade down into an even endgame. The point where we agreed to a draw was during the transition from the middle game to the endgame. White had more space in the center and the Bishop versus my Knight, but he couldn’t do anything with these slight advantages.

Mike Serovey

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Future Masters

Future masters have to start somewhere and most in England learn their skills on the weekend tournament circuit, in junior events and adult events. It used to be the case that it would take many years, even for the most talented, to become masters, but now things seem to have speeded up with access to databases and coaching.  It is remarkable how quickly juniors can improve now. One kid from nearby went from a beginner to the top player in the county for his age category in just 3 years. I guess he will have his first master title in another 3 years, such is the trajectory of his progression.

I recently had a look through some of my games in the 1990s, the decade when I first started playing chess. In 1996, I played in the World Amateur Championship in Hastings. I played a future IM, Thomas Rendle. He was only about 10 at the time, graded perhaps around 1500 elo, while I was about 1700 elo – although the ratings are a bit irrelevant as we were both heading for ratings hundreds of points higher. While I was a bit more experienced, he had the confidence of youth. He was in the habit of wearing bow-ties, as I recall. I thought he was a bit reminiscent of Walter, the arch enemy of Dennis and Gnasher. Anyway, he played the French Defence, which he still does today, although he’s no longer wearing the bow-ties!

In the game below he played well until he saw an opportunity to win two minor pieces for a rook, missing that his king would get into trouble.

Although I won this encounter, ten years later he become an IM while I hit a wall and stopped making significant progress. I like to think that the reason why I didn’t progress to master level was that I only came to chess as an adult, and annoying things like having to earn a living got in the way. While there is probably a little bit of that involved, it is probably more because I didn’t want to improve as much as he did and didn’t prioritise it enough. What are you prepared to sacrifice to improve? If you’re not giving 100% to chess, forget becoming a master. And watch out for the kids – some of them may be future masters!

Angus James

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Nine

This is a recently completed game that was played on the ICCF server. My opponent is from England and is one of two 2300 rated players that I drew in this section. He is also the highest rated player in this section. This draw has temporarily moved me back into second place out of 13. I doubt that I can remain in  second place because I am losing one of my three remaining games in this section.

This game went only 26 moves and thus it would qualify as a miniature, but it was not a “Grandmaster draw”. I had two pawns for a Knight, but a passed pawn on the Queenside was compensation for the Knight. I also had a fianchettoed Bishop that covered a potential queening square.

I play the English Opening as White and thus I dislike having to play against it as Black. However, in this game I did OK with it. I tried to transpose into a Modern Defense and then from there we got some kind of Benoni Defense. Having an up-to-date database of games helped me get through the opening without any errors. My analysis in the game below includes notes from other commentators.

By move number ten Black is lagging a little behind in development but is advancing his pawns on the Queenside. The trick here is for Black to avoid over extending those pawns. By move number 14 Black has completed his development and the game is even. On move number 16 Black starts a combination of moves that gives Black connected passed pawns for a Knight, but is still fairly even. I calculated at least a draw for Black with this in spite of the slight material deficit. The reader can decide for himself or herself how this game would have gone if we had played it out beyond 26 moves.

Mike Serovey

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Improving Concentration

Being able to concentrate at the board is easier said than done, yet it is vital if you are going to play your best chess. Among the issues that could impact on your concentration are tiredness, fitness level, health, distractions and worries at home/work, etc.

Health and fitness are easily taken for granted, until you reach middle age and realise they are not a given. To be fit, well and rested for a tournament or match you have to train not just your chess brain, but also take care of yourself. It is notable that professional chess players spend a large amount of time preparing for matches just focusing on fitness. Great stamina is required to play at a high level for hours. Concentration is something that can be improved by increasing your fitness level and maintaining good health.

Getting a good night’s sleep before playing chess is an obvious one, but not always easy to achieve when you’ve got a family. Try to get an early night and avoid too much alcohol or caffeine.

On the day itself, get some fresh air before the game with a walk or some form of exercise. This is likely to help to get your body and mind energised for the game. Last minute opening preparation will most likely be a waste of time.

Some players find it useful to turn up 15 minutes early to games to get into ‘the zone’ before the game starts. Apparently Botvinnik did this. If you only get into ‘the zone’ 15 minutes after the game has started the whole game could be decided by then. Being calm will most likely put you in a better position to cope with whatever is about to occur at the board or around it.

When you do finally get started – after you’ve done your fitness program, healthy lifestyle regime, got a good night’s sleep, had a walk in the morning and turned up early – there can be really irritating distractions. Like talking in the background by inconsiderate folk, eating at the board (especially crisps and wrapped sweets), slurping tea/coffee, table shaking, etc. These things are often more distracting than someone’s mobile going off, but no one gets defaulted for them. Your opponent is not supposed to distract you, but rather than having a dispute that requires arbiter intervention, it might be better to remain resolutely focused on the position and not let yourself be distracted by it all. Maintain a Zen-like calm, and don’t let those pesky distractions get to you!

Spend as much time at the board as possible, concentrating as hard as you possibly can. You might find it helpful to get up regularly to take a little walk around, but try and limit these leg stretches in terms of time so that you’re not tempted to take your mind off the position. There is nothing worse than returning to the board and thinking, ‘what was I planning to do next?!’ and spending 15 minutes to re-acquaint yourself with the position.

Staying hydrated by drinking water before and during games is wise, particularly if the venue temperature is warm. This may mean you need to visit the bathroom once or twice, but better that than being dehydrated, which is proven to negatively impact body and mind performance. If you need to eat during the game, apparently bananas are good for slow release of carbohydrates, so that you don’t have any high or low blood sugars.

Angus James

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Milner-Barry Gambit Versus The French Defense: Game 3

This game is one of my recently completed games at ICCF. My opponent in this game was rated about 50 points above me at the start of this game. I found plenty of his games in my database and thus I knew that he liked to play the French Defense. I don’t remember finding any games in which he faced the Milner-Barry Gambit, so I decided to try that opening. This time it paid off with an exciting win.

The first 11 moves of this game went exactly as I wanted them to. I was surprised by Black’s move number 12. From move 13 on I was into my own original analysis. I doubt that I would have found all of White’s good moves in an Over the Board (OTB) game. However, my familiarity with this opening would have helped me if I had enough time to look at key ideas and positions.

White gets a lead in development and attacks against Black’s King and Queen as compensation for the pawns that are sacrificed. However, I will also recapture some of my lost pawns when I get the chance to.

Black’s fifteenth move was a mistake because it forced the White Rook to a better square. Putting the Bishop on c5 would have been slightly better because it would temporarily keep the White Rook off e3. White was winning from move number 16 on, but I still needed to find the correct follow-up ideas to my previous moves. Again, Black surprised me a few times but never found any moves that threw me off.

White is putting pressure on f7 as well as chasing some of Black’s pieces around. The double check on move number 19 is, again, intended to remove some of the defenders from the Black King. Doubling the pawns on the f file gives White more targets to attack.

On move number 22 White has several options. I decided to play the pawn to h4 in order to give the White King an escape square if needed and to break up the pawn structure around the Black King. Continuing to advance the h pawn is just following through on my idea to shatter the pawn structure around the Black King. Although Black was losing at the point where he resigned, I still think that the resignation was a little premature. Still, I’m not complaining!

This game gives me my second win in this section. At the time that I am writing this I am in fourth place out of thirteen with two wins, one loss and five draws. The one person that I lost to is now in fifth place. I still have four games remaining in this section and at least one of them is a win.

Mike Serovey

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Eight

This game is an oddity for me because it is one of my rare wins against a chess master.

However, this win was on time forfeit in a dead-even position. My opponent had six other losses in this section before this one. I am guessing that all seven losses were on time. These seven losses have Nicotera in dead last place in this section. At the time that I am writing this I am in fifth place out of thirteen with an even score.

This is a variation of the English Opening that I rarely play and I got no particular advantage out of the opening. On move number 19, I was preparing to open up the Center and take advantage of my two fianchettoed bishops. I never got the chance.

Because of how short this game is, there really isn’t much that I can say about it.

Mike Serovey

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