The Crying Game

I often go to a number of local junior chess tournaments to closely examine the tournament’s inner workings, players, etc. I do this so, when I eventually take my students there to play in a tournament, I know what we’re getting into. I had a chance to visit a tournament that was geared toward very young players which was exactly what I was looking for. The venue looked great, the equipment was good, parking was plentiful and there were plenty of restaurants nearby. However, there was one major problem, an overwhelming number of crying children. Looking at this scene of bleak despair, you’d think that every child in the tournament hall had just been told that Santa Claus had been viciously murdered on Christmas Eve. It got me thinking about my own students and how much crying they did. Thankfully, my students, even the really young ones, aren’t criers. There’s a good reason for that. I teach my students not to cry when they loose a game (or tournament).

I read an article about how we now have a generation of cry babies coming up in the world. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with crying. I had a good cry upon hearing about the death of David Bowie. Crying can be a healthy thing. However, too much of anything, healthy or not, will have negative consequences. My heart goes out to parents who, upon seeing their children in tears, feel terrible. After all, as parents we do our best to shelter our children from life’s often harsh realities. A little sheltering is a good thing but, like anything else, too much of it and you do your child more harm than good. This business of too much crying, according to the article, stems from “Special Little Snowflake Syndrome.” This problem occurs because many parents tell their kids that they’re special little snowflakes, unique and unlike any other child. Well, this seems reasonable enough on the surface. However, many parents, in a effort to shield their children from the emotional pain that comes when a child discovers they’re not good at something, overplay this idea. Yes, every child has the potential to do great things but they’ll have to fail at many things though their journey of life in order to find the one thing they can do well. It’s called growing up and experiencing life!

Now we add into the mix, the new idea that rather than have a first, second, third and fourth place trophy only, we give trophies to every child at a sports competition or chess tournament so no child feels left out and, more importantly, no child cries. At our monthly Academic Chess tournaments we offer four trophies per section so you either place or you don’t. Obviously, this idea of rewarding every child for showing up and playing chess didn’t work at the above mentioned tournament. The drought in California could have been solved had I collected all those tears (they would have filled a petrol truck). I’m not trying to be an old SOB here but, there’s something to be said about healthy competition. After all, it has driven civilizations to great advancements. If every child playing in one of these “everyone’s a winner” chess tournaments knows they’re going to get a trophy, doesn’t that dampen their competitiveness? I think it does to a certain extent. While I can’t change the generation of crying children on a whole, I have been able to control it among the hundreds of students I teach and coach.

The first thing I tell students is that there will always be another game of chess for them to play, so if they just lost a game, there will be another game they’ll have a chance to win. Eventually, they will win a game or two or three. No losing streak lasts forever. I also tell them that they can have a good cry over their loss or regroup. By regroup, I mean playing through the game, figuring out where they went wrong and then correcting the problem so it doesn’t occur in future games. Crying won’t improve your game. Learning from your mistake will! The best revenge is simply learning from your mistakes and moving on.

I make a point of spending greater time with students who are having problems winning games, working through those games with them and creating a battle plan. The battle plan consists of working through the problematic part of the game and coming up with a set of better moves that could have been made. Kids love the term battle plan because it means preparing for future action on the chessboard, a call to action (I use a lot of old Kung Fu movie examples because kids love martial arts). You have to provide hope to your students but telling them they’re special little snowflakes does little in the way of practicality. Practical hope is helping them improve their skills on the chessboard so they’ll win that next game. You also, as a teacher, have to lead by example.

Since losses are what discourage students of the game we love so much, you have to show them your own losses on the chessboard. Young students often assume that because you’re the chess teacher or coach, that you’ve never lost a game in your life. I make it a point of showing my worst chess losses at least once a month. If students see that you’ve painfully lost a game and come back from that loss, they’re more likely to take losing a bit better. Always give them practical hope!. I’ll often ask my advanced students to take one of my losses and show me where I went wrong. You’d be surprised at the really good ideas they come up with!

A loss on the chessboard is really an opportunity to learn, to get better. Therefore, a lost game should be looked at in a positive light. That is the wisdom I impart to my young students. When you lose a game, don’t get sad, get mad. Mad enough to sit down and determine where things went wrong and then correct the problem. I reinforce this idea over and over again until I’ve completely convinced my young students that every single loss is a golden opportunity to get better at chess. Of course, you can’t overdo this idea, otherwise you’d have a gaggle of students simply not trying to win. Again, too much of anything can have negative results.

Then there are those moments where a young student plays the best chess game ever and still loses. After fifty or so moves and hours on the board only to lose, I might feel like crying. However, as I tell them, crying only adds to the winners feeling of superiority. The best way to handle a loss to shake you opponent’s hand firmly, look them straight in the eye and say “great game” with a smile on your face. This works especially well when faced with an obnoxious opponent who wallows in victory. Always be gracious.

Again, I don’t fault parents for their attempts to shield their children from emotional pain but when you go overboard, you’re doing more harm than good. It’s a hard world out there and it requires having thick emotional skin at times. I grew up in a hard world which prepared me for many of the challenges I would face later on. Given the choice between a cloistered or sheltered life or a life steeped in often harsh reality, knowing what I know now, I’d take harsh reality.

I firmly believe that the idea of giving everyone a trophy just for participating, while it might make everyone happy, removes healthy competitiveness from the equation. This leads to children striving less towards achievement. Healthy competition is a good thing and children are a lot more resilient than we think. They’re young so their minds jump from one thing to the next and this holds true for emotional situations as well. A child will lose a chess tournament and move on to thinking about something else. Of course, the parents tend to be more crushed than their children who just lost but that’s part of parenting as well.

So parents, I highly suggest teaching your children to deal with life’s losses early on. I do believe each and every child is special. Every student I teach is brilliant in my book. However, I know realistically, they’re not all, if any, going to become Grandmasters. However, they’ll find their way to that one thing in life that they enjoy and do well at. In the end that’s what counts. Let them find their way through life. Be there when they need you. Let them cry but remember, too much of anything is counter productive. Teach them that crying is appropriate at certain times but it is not the answer to everything. Here’s a game in which I suspect one player might have had a good cry. Enjoy.

Hugh Patterson

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My Take on the Chess Bully

After reading Hugh Patterson’s article on chess bullies I decided to add my opinion and experiences to the topic. First, I do not spend much time in online forums so I rarely have to deal with trolls. Second, I do not go to chess clubs anymore and I am only recently getting back into playing OTB chess here in Colorado Springs. Third, as the drill sergeants in Army basic training told me, “Opinions are like @$$holes, everyone has one and most of them stink”. Therefore , I do not really care what a bully, jerk or troll thinks!

When I was a junior in high school I joined the chess club there. The seniors there had won the Southeastern (Region IV) High School Championship for the third time in a row and they were my chess heroes. The highest rated one at the time, Nick, would tell kids from other schools, “I eat kids like you for breakfast”. At the time I thought that was cool. Now, I see that as being rude. He would also take a Bishop that had been removed from the chess board and put the base of it to his mouth. Then, he would pretend to smoke that Bishop! I thought that was cool too!

In my senior year I was in the under 1400 section of the Region IV Championship and I was paired against some kid with a rating around 1000 points. I had White and I played the Max Lange Attack against him. He misplayed the Black side and lost quickly. However, during that particular game I decided to stare at him every time that it was his turn to move. At some point in this chess game he noticed this and said, “I can’t believe that I got so busted so fast!”. Although this may have been legal at the time that I played this game I no longer use the tactic now because it is against a strict interpretation of the rules that prohibit annoying your opponent.

In a recent chess tournament I went out of my way not to stare at a teenage girl who was my opponent because I knew that I would be playing her again at some time in the future and I did not want her to hate or fear me!

One of the chess coaches in the Tampa area was telling one of his war stories to a few of his students and I was listening in. According to the story, he was at the World Open and was playing Vasily Smyslov. (I have no clue how or why a sandbagging 1800 player would be paired against a former world champion!) Anyway, according to this story, Smyslov had a habit of taking a piece, slamming it onto a square, and then “screwing” it into that square. This became known as the “Smyslov Screw”. You can find some comments on the Smyslov Screw here: http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/dont-be-that-guy-at-the-chess-tournament?page=3. I have yet to have someone try that on me, but the link above gives some hints on how to handle that.

When I was running some open chess tournaments at the Brandon and Dale Mabry campuses of Hillsborough Community College, a chess expert and TD from another county came to one of these events and one of the first things out of his mouth was a comment about how people who cannot play chess well run chess tournaments! That is just plane rude and puts this expert into the bully category!

This photograph was taken during one of my HCC events.
Chess players at one of my chess tournaments that I ran at HCC

Although my OTB chess rating is still in the low 1500 range and I have been on a losing streak lately, I still have 41 years of rated chess experience and understand the game about as well as any 2200 rated player does. I am also a former US Army sergeant. If you try to bully me I can and may eat your lunch!

Mike Serovey

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Steamrollered

Sometimes you just don’t know where you let it go.

A lot was on my mind last night, but I thought I had clarity. Probably my first mistake was 6… c5 which is a very soft way for Black to handle the opening. Brian Wall’s typically humble :) self assessment was, “It helps when IM David Vigorito explains an opening and you practice for 25 years, it helps if you have a gorgeous wooden Chess set to play on, it helps if the game is limited to my level of positional and tactical understanding.”

Jacques Delaguerre

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Recognising the Patterns : Challenge # 21


This is one of the key endgame patterns that you must know by heart. Silman called this position as “Cat N Mouse” position. I called it “Tom and Jerry” when explaining it to my students so they can remember it easily. In this position whoever has the move will lose. The pawns could be at any file or rank, of course you can’t achieve this position when the pawns are on the rook file.

Now try to solve following problems by recognizing the above pattern:

Hermann Voigt against Emanuel Lasker in 1892 – Black to Move


Q:Black is exchange up, find the quickest way to win this position.
A: Black can win this position by pinning the rook as follows:

80…Rc3

This achieves the Tom and Jerry position on next move by capturing the bishop.

81. Kg4 Rxf3 82. gxf3 Ke3

Achieving the desired position where white will lose the pawn and game by force.

Semen Khanin against Semen Dvoirys in 2014 – Black to Move

Q: In the above position Black played 31…d5 to try to deprive a5 square from Black’s rook. How would you evaluate it?
A: 31…d5 is a blunder while with 31…Kd6 Black would have had better chances to hold the position despite losing the a6 pawn.

31…d5?? 32. g5 Kd6

If 32…Kd7 then 33. Rxf6 wins

33. Rxf6+ Rxf6 34. gxf6 Ke6 35. Ke3 – Kxf6

Despite the material balance Black’s position is hopeless.

36. Kd4 Ke6 37. Kc5 Ke5 38. d4 Ke4

White has achieved the desired position but he must be careful

39. a3!

And not a4 which in fact is winning for black. But after a3 white went on win in few moves.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Minority Interests (2)

Another example of the strategy seen in Bobotsov-Petrosian can be seen below, but with an added twist. As well as exchanging light-squared bishops and getting his knight to d6, Black also plays the prophylactic advance b7-b5, preventing the Minority Attack from proceeding. This is an excellent strategy, if Black can then occupy c4 with a knight (thus sheltering his weak c6-pawn). The other crucial factor in the success of the b5-plan is that Black have a firm grip on the e4-square – if White can answer …b5 by breaking in the centre with e4, Black’s strategy can prove incorrect (the classic example of this will be shown next week).
In this example, everything works perfectly for Black. Having secured his queenside, he turns to the attack on the kingside, a decisive sacrifice on e3 crowning a model demonstration.
A lovely and highly instructive game, made all the more impressive for the fact that it was a blindfold game!

Steve Giddins

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More King and Pawn Endgames

In this week’s problem, White has to try to save the game.

King and Pawn endgames are very good for improving your powers of calculation. White has to play precise moves to draw this position.

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that Black wins with 1… Kd5 2. Kb4 Kd4 3. Ka5 f5 or 2. b4 f5 3. b5 f4 4. b6 Kc6 5. Ka6 f3 6. b7 f2 7. b8=Q f1=Q+ and Black wins the White Queen.

In the game, the strong grandmaster playing Black , played 1… f5.

This only draws, as White can play 2. Kb4 Kd5 3. Kc3 Ke4 4. Kd2 Kf3 5. b4.

Steven Carr

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Bishops and Knights

I’ve always felt that there’s one thing above all that makes chess such a fascinating game. We have two types of piece in our army which have very different abilities yet are very similar in value. It’s this interplay between knights and bishops which goes a long way towards making chess so interesting.

I recently had the honour of playing Stefano Bruzzi for the first time. Stef represented Italy in the Clare Benedict Cup way back in 1960, and, a few years later, moved to England. He’s played for Surbiton Chess Club for many years but, surprisingly, we’d never encountered each other over the board until last month.

(The Clare Benedict Cup was an international team tournament for counties in Western Europe which took place annually between 1953 and 1979. It was funded by the American writer and patron of the arts Clare Benedict (1870-1961), a distant relation of James Fenimore Cooper, best known as the author of The Last of the Mohicans).

The game was a short and, on the surface, uneventful draw, but on several occasions we both had interesting decisions to make concerning minor piece trades. Most of the decisions that fell to me I probably got wrong.

As usual (at least over the past season and a half) I was awarded the black pieces.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 Nc6

It’s not very often these days I have the luxury of playing someone significantly older than myself. I’ve had mixed results with this opening (I think there are a few promising lines for White) but considered it unlikely that my opponent would have studied it in any depth.

3. Nf3

He has to decide which knight to develop first. I’m going to meet 3. Nc3 with 3… e5 and after 4. d5 my knight’s going to e7 followed by g6. After 3. Nf3, though, we reach a somewhat eccentric Nimzo-Indian type position.

3… e6
4. Bg5

Almost certainly not the best move. Nc3, a3 and g3, in that order, are the most popular moves here. The bishop is just a target on g5.

4… h6

The first minor piece decision falls to White. Retreating looks natural but Bxf6 is also perfectly reasonable.

5. Bh4 Bb4+
6. Nc3

Here and on the next move I turn down the opportunity to play Bxc3, doubling White’s c-pawns. An interesting alternative, though, would have been 6… g5 7. Bg3 Ne4 8. Qc2 Nxg3 9. hxg3 g4 10. d5 gxf3 11. dxc6 fxe2 12. cxd7+ Bxd7 13. Bxe2 Bc6 which has been seen in several games.

6… d6
7. e3 O-O
8. Qc2

Now I no longer have the chance to saddle White with doubled c-pawns. Should I have taken the opportunity? Don’t ask me!

8… e5

Here White has to decide which structure he wants to play. He can push with d5, trade with dxe5 or maintain the tension, which is what he chooses to do.

9. O-O-O

An interesting choice which looks slightly risky as the king might be exposed there, but it does have the merit of unpinning the knight on c3.

9… exd4

Very careless. I spend much of my life teaching children about the danger of having doubled f-pawns in front of your king in Giuoco Pianissimo type positions. I also explain that this idea can happen in many openings so you always have to be on the lookout and see it coming a long way off. Here, though, I forgot my own advice. Now was the right time to trade minor pieces on c3, even though I’m no longer doubling his pawns. 9… Bxc3 10. Qxc3 Qe7 is about equal.

Now Stefano thought for some time, during which I realised I had a problem if he played 10. Nd5. I have to continue 10… dxe3 11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.a3 Bd2+ 13.Nxd2 exd2+ 14.Qxd2 when my computer thinks White is slightly better, with more than enough compensation for the missing pawn.

Instead, much to my relief, he preferred to trade bishop for knight on f6.

10. Bxf6 Qxf6
11. Nd5 Qd8

Now White has the chance of another minor piece trade, this time on b4, but he rightly spurns the opportunity because the bishop on b4 is now awkwardly placed.

12. a3 Ba5
13. b4

There was a sharp alternative giving Black the chance to sacrifice a piece. A computer generated variation: 13.exd4 Ne7 14.Nxe7+ Qxe7 15.b4 Bb6 16.c5 dxc5 17.dxc5 a5 18.cxb6 axb4 19.a4 b3 20.Qxb3 Be6 21.Re1 Qc5+ 22.Qc2 Qa3+ 23.Qb2 Qc5+ with a perpetual check.

13… Bb6
14. exd4 a5

Again White has to decide whether or not to make a minor piece trade. 15. c5 Ba7 16. b5 Ne7 17. Ne3 was another option which seems OK for Black. This time he selects the knight for bishop swap.

15. Nxb6 cxb6
16. b5 Ne7
17. d5

Fixing the pawn structure in this way helps Black, but I guess he wanted to keep the queen side closed. 17. Bd3 was also possible when Black’s pawn structure doesn’t look too healthy but he has plenty of piece activity and White’s king might become exposed.

17… Bg4
18. Rd4

Giving me the opportunity to double his f-pawns… and offering a draw. After a move like Be2 or Qe4, for example, Bxf3 would be reasonable, trading off White’s potentially active knight and leaving Black with a horse heading for g6 and e5 against a not terribly useful bishop.

Now the choice of whether or not to trade minor pieces falls to me. I didn’t seriously consider playing 18… Bxf3 19. gxf3 when his rook might be coming to g1 and all his pieces are pointing at my king. But my computer tells me that Black is fine after 19… Ng6 followed by Qf6 and putting a rook on e8. A stronger or more confident player than me would have continued in this way.

The move I was considering was Qd7 (not the best square for Her Majesty) when the position is indeed about equal. Anyone who knows me, though, will not be at all surprised that I accepted Stefano’s proposal to share the point.

Richard James

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Discipline

We all have personal goals, be it earning a college degree or doing a better job at something in ours lives. We try to achieve these goals with the best of intentions. However, many of us fall short. It’s not that we don’t want to achieve something. We have the initial drive that propels us towards improvement in life. What we often lack is the primary element allowing us to achieve our goals, discipline.

The ideas discussed here can be applied to our lives on and off of the chessboard. How many of you readers have used the term “procrastinate” to describe something you either haven’t done or put off until the last minute? Procrastination is the one of the primary road blocks to achieving goals. Also creating a road block to success is follow through.

Of course, life can be extremely difficult at times and our focus must shift from achieving our goals to simply surviving. While you cannot avoid these forks in the road of life, you can learn to use the time in between life catastrophes wisely.

For most of us, life will move along smoothly and just when we get comfortable, a crisis hits. We have to make changes in our lives and start again. In my own life, I seem to have a major crisis every ten to fifteen years of so. Knowing that I have a major life changing event on a semi schedule means I have to use the time in between these events prudently. The lesson here is that when things are going good in your life, take that time and try to achieve something. However, even thinking this way, you might not achieve your goals because of the previously mentioned road blocks. Lesson one: Be aware of goal road blocks.

When I was younger, I had a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them. With the exception of music, I didn’t stick with the goals I had set, most of them educational. I would get off to a great start and somewhere down the line I would start slacking off and eventually lose interest. I lost interest due to one big reason. I’d overdo things. What I mean is this: My first college major was Astronomy. At the time, I was a somewhat successful local musician. I started dating a girl who went to college. Being a high school drop out (thrown out actually), I determined that I needed to be in college to impress this young lady. That is not a sound reason for seeking an education! I went to the local community college, got their course catalog and started thumbing through it. I was lazy back then and got as far as astronomy in the course descriptions. I read a line from one of the class summaries that said “astrophysicists can trace the origin of the universe to 1/10,000 of a second after the big bang.” I was hooked. I took the class and the other seven astronomy classes they offered (including introductory astrophysics which required knowledge of Calculus – I failed high school Algebra). I worked around the clock, often doing homework at my band’s sound checks at clubs. The famous American concert promoter, Bill Graham, once walked into our dressing room at a big show we were playing and saw me with a calculator and astrophysics text book. He was surprised that I was doing such “heavy reading” and told me that Brian May from Queen was an astrophysicist. Did that propel me towards my degree goal? No, I gave up a few months later. I was studying literally around the clock and became burnt out. Lesson number two: Pace yourself when it comes to achieving goals. Sometimes we have a short finite amount of time in which to achieve our goals, in which case we must burn the midnight oil. However, it is best to take the slow and steady approach, taking your time and methodically building up your knowledge base or foundation. For most of my life, I’ve jumped headlong into things, only knowing only two modes for studying: on and off. If your on, you have to be gong a hundred miles and hour. If your off your off. Find a good, steady cruising speed in which to approach your goals and you won’t burn out.

It was only later in life that I learned how to find that slow an steady pace that would allow me to achieve my goals. However, I still go over the edge when it comes to learning. When earning my Mandarin language degree and certificates, I started slow and steady but ended up jumping head first into the fires of obsessive learning. I immersed myself into my studies and nearly burned out which would have meant not meeting my goal. While immersion is a excellent way to learn a language, it can lead to burn out. Again, pace yourself. What saved me was having the right set of circumstances in place when I started my studies, otherwise things might have ended differently. Of course, I never would completed my studies had I not dealt with procrastination and discipline. Lesson two: Set a reasonable pace!

Procrastination is an issue everyone has to deal with. Show me someone who claims to never have procrastinated and I’ll show you a lair. It’s alright. We have all procrastinated at one point in our lives. Let’s say you have to go to the dentist and you’re not fond of dentists in general. You put your visit off until one side of your face looks like a Chipmunk’s cheek due to an abscess. So much for procrastinating. Humans tend to put off what they don’t like dealing with. They also put off certain aspects of what they want to deal with, such as studying. I know more than a few chess players who purchase a new chess book that’s going to help them improve their playing skills. The book then sits on a shelve collecting dust or gets partially read. We all want to improve our game play but it becomes less appealing when we suddenly realize we’re going to have to put a lot of effort into it! We make up excuses as to why we can’t crack that book open. We procrastinate.

The sure fire way to avoid procrastination is by tackling the biggest road block to achieving goals, discipline. Discipline is something my adopted father lives by. He is a master of this idea. He has had extremely serious health issues during the last few years that include severe pain that would leave most people in tears. Yet every single day, he gets up and practices his martial arts. Of course he is a certified martial arts master, but the point here is that he has discipline.

Discipline is not something you’re born with but something you slowly develop over time. The younger you are when you start to develop discipline, the easier things are going to be throughout life. If you’re a old middle aged goat such as myself, fear not, because you too can develop discipline and that discipline will be a life changer for you.

You develop discipline slowly, one step at a time. You’ll have set backs, but if you keep at it (developing discipline) you’ll find its rewards sooner than you think. The first way to develop this crucial life skill is to choose your initial goals carefully. You can’t think to yourself “even though I’ve never painted before, I’m going to be able to perfectly reproduce the works of Rembrandt within six months.” That’s not going to happen.

When I decided to learn Mandarin, I wanted to learn a few phrases I could use with the Chinese parents and grandparents of many of my students. Nothing more, nothing less. This is an achievable goal. I picked up a book, had some trouble with it and found an online course that allowed me to work at my own pace. I set aside time each day and studied. I stuck with it. Giving up too soon is an occupational hazard of learning any seemingly complex subject. I passed that course and took another one and ended up with an accelerated language degree. The point is this: I set a simple goal with no hard deadline or expectations. Lesson three: Set realistic goals.

Even if your goal is completely realistic, you have to have to achieve it which means following it through. This is really where discipline comes into play. Discipline is a slippery fish in that once you start to develop it, it becomes stronger and stronger. However, the slippery part is actually starting to develop discipline and maintaining it.

This is why you set a realistic goal. Discipline and realistic goals work hand in hand. Developing discipline starts the minute you’ve chosen your goal. To develop and maintain discipline you have to commit to a schedule. If you’re studying anything, you have to commit an allotment of time each day to achieve your goals. If you’re new to a subject, don’t commit a massive amount of time each day to your studies. Otherwise you’ll become burnt out. Concentration is key to studying and the novice doesn’t have the mental stamina to concentrate for long periods of time. When I first started studying Mandarin, I put about an hour a day into my studies, broken down into two thirty minute sessions. Only after I had built a solid language foundation did I extend the time I studied each day.

Disciple is like a garden in that you have to tend it daily or the vegetation will die. You cannot make excuses for not studying. Of course, you’ll have emergencies now and again, but stick to it. Otherwise you’ll skip a day here and there and before you know it, weeks will have passed in between study sessions. Discipline only occurs when you stop making excuses and step up to the task at hand. Discipline is like the muscles in your body. If you don’t maintain them, you’ll lose your strength. Lesson four: Discipline is only developed through daily exercise (sitting down and doing the work that achieves your goal). Here’s a game, by a couple of well disciplined players to enjoy until next week. This one’s for you, David Bowie!

Hugh Patterson

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Minority interests (1)

The QGD Minority Attack is a very popular choice for white players, mainly because of the apparent simplicity of White’s play – “you just develop, play Rab1. b4-b5, bxc6 and then exploit the weak pawns”. It is true that in practice, White scores disproportionately well at almost all levels, but this is only because black players tend to lack a decent understanding of how to handle their position. When really great players are Black in such structures, the white system usually looks much less impressive. Over the next few weeks, we will look at a few classic examples of how to play the black structure.
Rule number one for Black is to try to exchange light-squared bishops, thereby weakening White’s control of c4. Rule number two is: having done so, put a knight on d6. These two things, if achieved, will usually be enough to render the white Q-side play ineffective, whereupon Black can attack on the kingside.
The following game is a classic example of the strategy.

Steve Giddins

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Playing Ostrich

The ability to create and to control the tension of battle is perhaps the principal attainment of the great player. – Savielly Tartakower

The unspoken corollary of Tartakower’s observation above is that the inability to control the tension of battle is a characteristic of the patzer. Tension, and the release of same, is the lesson of today’s game.

At the Denver Chess Club, my opponent David Hufnagel, a gentleman of club play if ever there was one, never a word of complaint on his lips, developed a reasonable game with Black.

Perhaps White should not have made the routine 11. Be3 and held off on placement of his black-squared bishop and instead looked to his pawns and the opening of the center with 11. Qe2. An unrealized theme of this position was Black’s potential to occupy e5 or c5 with a knight or c5 with his queen with early dynamic equality.

In any event, White struggled to show advantage on the queenside while Black mounted a promising attack on the kingside, an attack simultaneously empowered and hindered by the early exchange of his queen’s bishop for White’s king’s knight.

The critical moment came at Black’s 20th move. Nervous about the disposition of White’s queen’s bishop, Black chose to … release the tension he had labored to create and close the kingside with 20… f4? After 21. Bf2, Black’s queen hurried home to bury its head in the sand.

White then had a fairly free hand on the queenside, and after the ostrich-like  25… Nc7, Black was dead lost.

If asymmetric tension makes a player nervous and prone to false starts, that player should avoid the King’s Indian and play the symmetrical queen’s pawn game or the Nimzo-Indian/Queen’s Indian.

Jacques Delaguerre

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