The Comeback Trail, Part 11

Another aspect of comeback preparation concerns whether you need to win, and most especially with Black. This can vary from player to player and also change over time. For example those who tend to be among the contenders in a particular section will be under pressure to win with both White and Black. Those who tend to be among the back markers will be a lot happier with draws.

I’ll be facing this issue when I start to play again. I’d like to think that I should be among the favourites in most weekend Open sections and as such will need a lot of wins. This issue will be compounded by the fact that I’ll probably need to take half point byes on the Friday evening game, leaving me needing four straight wins to get a high prize.

In such situations it makes sense to play openings which lead to a full blooded struggle, and especially with Black. Against most Black defences White will have simplifying lines, and although there are usually ways to make a fight of it, these should probably be avoided.

So it’s quite common to see the stronger competitors in weekend tournaments specialize in openings such as the King’s Indian and Sicilian Defence. Of course these might not be everyone’s cup of tea and there may also be a temptation to have a separate repertoire for stronger tournaments in which a lower percentage can win a top prize. This of course could get very time consuming, especially when the financial returns for professional chess are quite modest, at least under the very highest level.

Different players have different answers. In the UK Keith Arkell plays quite modest openings but specializes in the endgame where he can grind out wins from the most unpromising looking positions. Mark Hebden, on the other hand, has a superbly worked out opening repertoire which allows him to win a lot of quick games. On the other hand he takes some risks by playing very sharp positions in which a single mistake can decide matters.

What about my own solution? Actually I haven’t decided yet, though historically speaking I’ve been a jack of all trades. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.