How to Swindle

If you’ve been playing competitive chess for long enough, you’ve probably heard of  someone “swindling” their opponent. What does that mean? Swindling is winning or drawing a completely lost game. While rare at the Grandmaster level, often times in amateur play players will make catastrophic mistakes, throwing away winning games (this is why some coaches stress not resigning in scholastic play).

Making your opponent play out until a complete win is a good practice. However, if you are not finding ways to get back into the game, you are just wasting your time. In the game I will show, I played a absolutely atrocious opening, but found a way by creating opportunities. Remember, when you are losing, go crazy!

Steincamp – Thonglee (National High School Chess Championships, 2014)

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. d4

3…d5 A Grünfeld Defense. When I played this game, I liked the f3 systems against this opening, but because I did not follow the correct move order (1. c4 Nf6 2. d4 g6 3. f3), I will not get the same kinds of positions.

4. f3 c6 5. Bf4 Bg7 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 cxd5 10. Qb3

10…Qa5+ Black already has won the opening battle. It is becoming clear that this position will become at least semi–open, leaving my king exposed.

11. Kf2

11…e5! The right idea!

12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Bxe5 Bxe5 14. Rd1 Be6

15. Qa3 A sad concession. The threat of …d4 is overwhelming, and I need to get my opponent’s queen off the board.

15…Qxa3 16. bxa3 d4 17. exd4 Bxd4+

18. Kg3?! An odd try. However, from here, my king is not easily attacked.

18…Bxa2 19. Ne2 Be5+ 20. Kf2 Rad8 21. Be4 b6 22. h4 f5 23. Bc2 Bc4 24. Rhe1 Rfe8

25. h5! In this position it is clear that I am much, much worse. So I have to find ways to create weaknesses. By making this move, I aim to improve my light squared bishop.

25…Rxd1 26. Rxd1

26…Bxe2?? The pair of bishops is worth a lot more than my extremely weak a3 pawn. Here while my opponent wins material, heads into an opposite colored bishop ending. That being said, it is still not a draw, black has two strong passed pawns on the queenside. This will make it difficult to play for a draw. I need to avoid trading rooks and attack the light squares on the kingside. Remember, when you have an opposite colored bishop game, attack the color squares of you bishop, it will be much more effective. This by no means is a winning plan, by I can create respectable counter play at the least.

27. Kxe2 Bd6+ 28. Kf2 Bxa3

29. Rd7 Goal #1 is complete – Activating my pieces. In a worse position, you cannot afford to sit back and play passively. In this position, my opponent would just push his pawns. Note that a1 is the color of his bishop so that makes my life so much more difficult.

29…Bc5+ 30. Kg3 a5

31. Bb3+  Goal #2 is complete – Make forcing moves. Here if Black opts for …Kf8, I can score a quick draw, which considering the position, will be a good result for me. These kinds of positions tell you a lot about your opponent. 31… Kh8 is not a fun move to make, but means that my opponent wants to win (and should). However, by making forcing moves like this I have now created a box for my opponent’s king. If I can’t get a draw in this ending, then I should at least try to checkmate my opponent!


32. h6! Goal #3 is complete – Put pieces around the enemy king. I’m still not able to make any concrete threats, but at least I can control more squares around the enemy king. Note that if the rook leaves the 8th rank I can checkmate him.

32…Be3?  I was expecting 32… Bf8 which is much stronger. Again, I am still losing, so my opponent should find ways to breakdown my counter play most effectively. If he played this, I would have responded 33. Rb7, with a pawn trade maximizing my drawing chances. My computer seems to think 33… b5 is the best move, as it taunts my limited play here.

33. Bf7!  The critical intermezzo, getting the rook off the e–file for the following sequence of moves.

33… Rf8 34. f4 g5

35. Kf3! The only way to attack black. It is becoming clear that if I do not win now, I will lose the game entirely. By attacking the bishop, I force 35… Bxf4, giving me the tempo to play 36. g4! holding Black’s pawn on g5, making it impossible to win the h6 pawn.

35…Bxf4 36. g4 fxg4+

37. Kxg4 Goal #4 is accomplished – Open the enemy king! Now I can attack h7 (which is a light square) and perhaps create a passed pawn of my own! In this position, I have improved my chances of getting a result significantly.

Rb8 38. Bb3 b5 39. Bc2

39…Rc8 My opponent offered a draw here. And well, as tempting as it was, I decided against taking the draw. In a position like this, if your opponent offers a draw, it is a clear sign that he has given up on winning. Because of that, I decided to see what I could do to change the position.

40. Bf5! Not 40. Bxh7. I need to keep my pieces coordinated. Putting my bishop on h7 means putting it out of the game for one move. I need to take the h7 pawn with my rook, and I don’t need to worry, its not going anywhere.

40…Rb8 41. Rxh7+ Kg8

42. Rg7+ According to my computer, I have achieved complete equality, yet it seems like its easier to play with White now.

42… Kh8 If I were Black, I may tried in going in the other direction with 42… Kf8, the only problem is that then my h–pawn becomes a serious factor.

43. Ra7 My last few moves have all been forcing, allowing me to really improve my position.


44. Kh5! Bringing in the last piece. I’m going to need all of my pieces to checkmate my opponent, even my king.

Be3 45. Re7

45…Bf4??  The critical mistake I needed to complete the comeback. Now my king can get to f6 without worrying about an annoying bishop. Mate is around the corner.

46. Kg6 Goal #5 Complete – Create a Mating Net. 46. Be6 first would have been much better since it takes away the option of …Rg8+.

46…Rb6+ 47. Be6 1-0 Checkmate is inevitable, so my opponent resigned.

I didn’t win this game because of opening preparation or perfect endgame play. I won because after 26… Bxe2 I identified a plan that created active play, and stuck to it. In order to be successful at going crazy, you have to find basic principles that can help you find an edge. For me, it was identifying that opposite colored bishops made my opponent’s light squares very weak, and then making my pieces active enough that I could control them.

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

One thought on “How to Swindle

  1. Pingback: How to Swindle – Part 2 | chess^summit

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