Midgame Combinations

I’ve always been a bit slack about midgames.

In the 1980’s I experienced rapid rating rise. It was largely due, I now realize, to the gift of memory juxtaposed with the narrowness of 20th-century opening lines as played by American amateurs. I had an intuitive feel for choosing lines to memorize. My midgames were pre-planned, concealing a lack of tactical finesse and inferior endgame technique.

Returning to chess competition in 2011 after two decades of club play, it quickly became clear that computers have empirically demonstrated two classical hypotheses:

  1. There are nearly infinite defensive resources in chess.
  2. Almost any conceivable opening scheme is playable.

I spent the past four years rethinking my entire approach to openings, with good results. My endgame play has improved over the 20-year hiatus, club play consisting largely of stumbling into inferior blitz positions and buffaloing my way out via endgame technique.

But repeatedly I’ve had to confront my lackluster midgame play.

This weekend playing a tournament in Boulder, Colorado, I got an insight into what the problem is.  I am habituated to deep calculation in endgame play, but somehow expect to brazen my way through midgame combinations. It’s not a lack of tactical skill: I regularly solve, and that rather rapidly. It’s a matter of game-time will and patience at the board.

This is my final frontier in chess!

Jacques Delaguerre