Archive for November, 2010

Do you know how to analyse?

Alexander Kotov, from Think like a Grandmaster
(highlighting by me)

“But do you know how to analyse variations?” I asked my listeners, and without giving them time to reply went on, “I will show you how to analyse variations and if I’m wrong, then stop me. Let us suppose that at one point in your game you have a choice between two moves, Rd1 or Ng5. Which should you play? You settle down comfortably in your chair and start your analysis silently saying to yourself the possible moves.

“All right, I could play Rd1 and he would probably play Bb7, or he could take my a-pawn which is now undefended. What then? Do I like the look of the position then?’ You go one move further in your analysis and then you pull a long face — the Rook move no longer appeals to you. Then you look at the Knight move. “What if I go Ng5? He can drive it away by ..h6, I go Ne4, he captures it with his Bishop. I recapture and he attacks my Queen with his Rook. That doesn’t look very nice … so the Knight move is no good. Let’s look at the Rook move again. If he plays …Bb7 I can reply f3, but what if he captures my a-pawn. What can I play then? No, the Rook move is no good. I must check the Knight move again.  So, Ng5, h6, Ne4, Bxe4, Qxe4, Rd4. No good! So I mustn’t move the Knight. Try the Rook move again. Rd1 , Qxa2.”

At this point you glance at the clock. “My goodness! Already 30 minutes gone on thinking whether to move the Rook or the Knight. If it goes on like this you’ll really be in time trouble. And then suddenly you are struck by the happy idea — why move Rook or Knight? What about Bb1?’ And without any more ado, without any analysis at all you move the Bishop. Just like that with hardly any consideration at all.”

My words were interrupted by applause. The audience laughed, so accurate was my picture of their trials and tribulations.

What a great description of us poor hobby players. This is exactly what happens from time to time. I think for 10 minutes or more and suddenly I see a new move, check it superficially, play it and one second later I see that I lose material now.

Getting rid of this habit takes time and focus. First you need an organized thinking process, then you just need to follow it. Chess can be so simple. 🙂


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Opening traps in the French

It might not be the best idea to publish an analysis in a variation I actively use but a) only lower rated players will fall into the trap and b) nobody of my OTB opponents will read it.

In the last TL game (follow the link to replay it) I reached the following position:

Position after 8. 0-0

White’s piece setup allows the famous Greek gift. I knew that there was a chance to play it so I looked it up and prepared for it. Unfortunately the variations didn’t go very far, I was basically on my own after

9. Bxh7 Kxh7 10. Ng5 Kg6 11. Qd3+ f5

Position after 11...f5

It’s not really clear to me how White has a +0.80 or higher advantage here. The Black king has lost some shelter but there is no immediate mate threat. White needs to get more material for the sacrificed piece so the chicken variation, which I picked, goes:

12. Nxe6 Qh4 13. Bg3 Qc4 14. Nxf8 Nxf8

Position after 14...Nxf8

After the queen exchange White gained 3 pawns + a rook for 2 minor pieces. I completely underestimated the attack on my central e+f pawns later and almost gave away the advantage, fortunately my opponent picked the wrong strategy (exchanging pieces) and then blundered. The final endgame was easily won (see link above).

Instead of 12. Nxe6 another strong move is 12. Qg3 and this seems to be the way forward. We end up in a rather wild variation with

12. Qg3 Ndxe5 13. Nxe6 Ng4!

Position after 13...Ng4

A wonderful position. Queens will get off the board very soon and it looks as if White has gained nothing. The idea here however is to trap the knight after Nxh1.

It definitely pays off to spend some time on these variations before using them in a real game. An innocent “White is better” is very misleading here and accuracy is required to win the game.

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The last two weeks I continued with my almost daily tactics training at Chess Tempo and played 3 long games. The first long game was round 1 in the current TL (you can replay it here). A tough and long battle in which I had a good attack rolling but couldn’t break the accurate defense of my opponent. I had my chance very early in the game though:

Position after 6...Bg4

I am not a fan of opening blunders collection or “traps in the opening”. Now I understand that I was wrong. The first moves in a game not only develop the pieces, they also set up threats that the opponent has to counter, e.g. you attack a pawn that needs to be defended or you point your pieces to the f7 square to attack the king.

There is a general rule that I have completely forgotten: pinning the knight against the queen is bad if you haven’t castled yet. Do you see why? 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Ne5+ wins a pawn and Black can’t castle anymore.

Instead we ended in an endgame that was at least drawn but in time trouble my opponent missed a nasty trap:

Position after 53...a4?

54. Ke4 1-0

This game made it clear that it’s not only about playing chess, you must have fighting spirit and keep on going (sometimes stubbornly) until the end. It’s about pressure and forcing your opponent to make a mistake.

The next long game (90+30) was against my old TL team mate Signalman. This was the longest game I have ever played (~4 hours) and an incredible experience. I controlled the game most of the time, slowly starting a queen side attack but again couldn’t break through. Signalman suddenly got his own attacking rolling and we reached the endgame stage where he had less than 2 minutes on the clock (+30 sec increment for each move) vs my 6 minutes. Again it was at least a draw but slowly I was able to outplay him in the knight vs. bishop ending and got a winning position:

Position after 63...Kg7

Here I blundered horrible with 64. Kxh4?? but fortunately Black resigned after that, missing 64…Kh6. After 4 hours this was understandable and a good lesson for me that even at the end of the game one should double-check his moves. It’s too easy to spoil everything with one single oversight…

These long games prepared me for my third OTB game in the Carinthian Unterliga (lower league). As an unrated player I got board 8 and had to face a young player. He was obviously talented but I am not so bad neither and having White in a Ruy-Lopez clearly favours the more experienced player.

Position after 16...Be6

Tactics training is paying off, I played 17. Bxe6 followed by 18. Nxh6+ and was soon 2 pawns and the exchange up. Black resigned when he saw that he will lose another pawn. The interesting thing was that I recognized the combination already earlier and slowly made it possible by moving the pieces to the right squares. Hopefully this is how it will work in future.

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