For today’s article, I decided to put a different concept of chess under the microscope – weak squares. In my recent posts and videos, I’ve focused a lot on poor pawn structures and lack of space, and while instructive, doesn’t really encapsulate all of the natural elements of positional chess.
Weak squares, as defined by Grandmaster Iossif Dorfman in his book, The Method in Chess, are squares that can no longer be defended by a pawn, and can be attacked by the opponent’s pieces. Generally, these squares become great outposts, and can dictate the result of the game. For my first few examples, I would like to demonstrate how careless pawn moves can result in completely worse positions.
13…Ne5 14. Be2? White doesn’t really sense the trouble in this position. I do not want the pair of bishops, as my knight from e5 is far superior to the scope of the f3 bishop. 14…b5 15. Qc2 Qb6 Now that I’ve acquired the e5 outpost, I need to create more play on White’s weak dark squares 16. Kh1 Rae8
17. Bg5 h6 18. Bxf6 Bxf6 19. Nd1 White is lost for ideas and the position is completely lost. 19…c4
20. Nf2? Qe3-+ I identified the second weak square here, and was easily able to convert the game. I don’t like the Four Pawns Attack for White, but my opponent had a tenable position before giving me the outpost on e5, after which he was lost for ideas and fell apart.
In this next game, I was on the losing side, and the one mistake I made in the opening cost me from start to finish – let’s check it out:
Grenias–Steincamp (Baltimore Open, 2015)
13.Rc1! Immediately asking me to defend against discovered tactics along the c-file. Nc5 14.Bd4 Qc8 Still not realizing my disadvantage, I simplify into a much worse ending. 15.Re1 Bh3 16.e4!
16…Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Qb7 I have lost a lot of tempi with this …Bh3 maneuver and have no play to show for it. 18.f3 Nxb3 19.Qxb3 Nd7 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Nb5
21…Rfc8 22.Nd4 Rxc1 23.Rxc1 Rc8 24.Rc6 +-
2) Identifying Weak Squares
At the higher levels, players are generally more conscientious of creating such weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean that weak squares don’t exist. In the first game I’d like to show, I was paired against a young opponent and had played a fairly respectable game, but my opponent sealed my fate when he identified the weak squares in my position.
33.Bb5! The idea is to reroute the bishop to c6, keeping my rooks from becoming active. 33…Rb8 34.Bc6 Rb6? The real mistake. The best option was for me to play 34… b6 and open the position. While I have an isolated e-pawn, the endgame is closer to a draw than a win. Either way, by moving the bishop to c6, White obtains something to play for, thus increasing his wining chances. 35.b5! No second chances! Now …e7-e6 doesn’t work because White can capture with the d5 pawn and bring the rook. By letting my opponent secure this outpost, I quickly found that I had nothing to play for, and resigned a little over 10 moves later. 35…Kf8 36.Rb4 a6 37.a4 a5 38.Rh4 Kg7 39.Rf4 Ng8 40.h4 Rb8 41.g4 Nh6 42.Rfe4 Kf8 43.Kg3 Rb6 44.R4e2 Ng8 45.Kf4 Nf6 46.Kf3 Rb8 47.h5 1-0
A nice win from my opponent, where he managed to demonstrate superior endgame knowledge over the board. This next weak square earned the winner $38,000 at the recent Millionaire Chess Open:
Yang – Mandizha (U2400 Millionaire Chess 2, 2015)
26. Nf1! Superb idea! Regardless of the computer’s assessment of the position, the game just became a lot more complicated for Black. From f1, the knight will reroute to e3 then d5, taking advantage of Black’s inability to control any light squares, while blockading the d6 pawn. Mandizha is limited in his possibilities, as the Sicilian Najdorf line he prepared did not go as planned. He has a bad bishop on e7, which is blocked by the central pawns. in just a few moves, Yang proves that his knight is much better than Black’s bishop. 26… Bd8 27. Ne3 Bb6 28. Nd5 Bc5
29. f6!! And now White has all of the winning chances. Black erred immediately in the game but if black plays 29… gxf6, White can play 30. Rf3!+-, with the idea of taking on f6 with the rook. This idea is the “Principle of Two Weaknesses” as White will seek ways to put pressure on both f7 and d6 while improving his position. The knight is still untouchable and its not clear how Black escapes the bind. 29…g6? Tired, Mandizha makes the game losing move. 30. Ne7 And White only needed a few more moves to win the $38,000 prize.
3) Creating and Securing Weak Squares
Some openings just don’t create enough weak squares. This is where positional play becomes dynamic; finding forcing moves to create weak squares is another way to generate an advantage. Here’s a game I played online:
leika (me)-jondrich (Internet Chess Club, G/15) 24…b5
25…Ne8 26. Kf2 Ba5 27. Ba3 b4?
28. Bc1 Bb6 29. Be3 My bishop can’t do too much, but this move puts pressure on c5 while covering the d4 square. 29…a5 30. a4 Locking down the queenside. If Black makes the mistake of taking en passant on a3, I will recapture and the c3 square become accessible for my e2 knight. 30…Nc7 31. g4
While its important to identify weak squares and put your pieces on them, its also important to keep that outpost, or trade them for better ones. I had a cute maneuver in my round 3 win at the World Open this past year:
Steincamp-Williams (World Open, 2015)
26.Bh3! Black cannot surrender control of the e6 square, so he must return his bishop to d7. 26…Bd7 27.Bg2!
27…Bxa5 28.bxa5Qd8 29.Rc7 Bc8
30.a4 Opening the a3 square for my bishop to attack d6. 30…Ne7 31.Ba3 Bf5 32.e4 Bc8+-
In all of these games, the position went from seemingly equal to dead lost because of one weak square. Use these squares to make pieces active and blockade weak pawns, and you will see significant returns in your gameplay!
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my gofundme page to learn about my journey to New Orleans for the 2016 US Junior Open.
Well, I’ve finally done it. This past Sunday I played against an expert in the Pittsburgh Chess League and pulled out a nail biter to get the win. The win puts me at 2/2 (both games with black) in the league, but more importantly will help me get the 8 points I need to cross 2100 for the first time in my career. Even though the game was far from perfect, I thought it would still be worth sharing, as the endgame is far from simple. Here we go.
Atwell – Steincamp (Pittsburgh Chess League, 2015)
A crazy game, and a lot for me to work on before the Pennsylvania State Chess Championships next week. Either way, breaking 2100 is really exciting for me – and hopefully, reaching master is around the corner.
Did you enjoy this article? Make sure to check out my gofundme campaign to help me keep improving and push my way to the 2016 US Junior Open!
I played an interesting game earlier this week on the Internet Chess Club (ICC). After reaching a position similar in nature to my game against Jennifer Yu, my opponent deviated from the line, missing my one crucial resource – my space-grabbing a-pawn. Watch my video of the week as I manage to use this pawn to dominate the half-open c-file!
Enjoy this video? Check out my gofundme page to learn about my journey to the 2016 US Junior Open Chess Championships!
A happy National Chess Day from chess^summit! I’ll put out a video tomorrow, but for the mean time, here’s a puzzle for you to enjoy! When you’ve come up with answer, grade yourself using the points that I’ve distributed below.
White just played the seemingly innocent move 22.Qd3?? Hoping to strengthen his defenses, but missed the instantly winning 22… Nf4! (5 points) Threatening checkmate on g2. The knight is invincible since 23. gxf4 is punished by 23…Qxd3, taking advantage over White’s weak third rank. White Resigned. The most testing defense, 23.Qf3 can be met in two ways. First, the simple 23… Rxe2 winning a piece is enough for Black to convert (1 point). But the best move on the board is 23…Rc3!! – a rook sacrifice (3 points). 24. Qxc3 is not possible because of 24… Qg2#, but upon looking deeper, you hopefully found that 24. Qh1 is met by the delightful checkmate 24… Ne2# (1 point).
How’d you do? Total up your points and compare to below!
10 points: Great full board awareness. Even though you knew the knight was hanging on d2, you looked for better and found that 23… Rc3 was completely winning for Black. Keep up the good work!
7-9 points: Maybe a slight miscalculation towards the end, but you had to find the removing the defender idea to earn more than 5 points – so good job!.
5-6 points: Good job finding the start to the attack. 22… Nf4 is the only way for Black to play for a win. However, its important to look deeper when calculating such lines. Its one thing to be up a piece, its another to have checkmate!
0 points: This puzzle wasn’t easy, and maybe you just needed more time to find the right combination of forcing moves. Check out my article, Building up Your Tactical Arsenal for study techniques to improve your pattern recognition.
I thought for today’s post, I’d share an ongoing development in chess – China’s sudden emergence as one of the world’s strongest national teams. China really caught my eye this summer with Wei Yi’s immortal game against Bruzon Batista, in addition to their 29-21 thumping of Russia last July. While the national team lost steam in their match against eventual World Cup winner Sergey Karjakin, I feel like the World Cup tiebreaker between Wei Yi and Ding Liren more than demonstrated the true strength that the country has to offer.
China has had a lot to offer to chess over the last few years, but their top players haven’t emerged at the top level tournaments on a regular basis (i.e. Sinquefield Cup, 2015 FIDE Grand Prix, Gashimov Memorial, etc). Former Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan may prove to be an exception, but her performances in the recent Tata Steel and the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting proved she has a long ways to go to compete with the very best.
When I was younger (seven years ago), I remember hearing a lot about Bu Xiangzhi through the Internet Chess Club summaries of major tournaments – particularly a game he played against Vassily Ivanchuk, where he managed to lose in the first nine moves! Bu for the most part has not been active on the highest level since 2010, but since then, quite a few young players have drawn the spotlight of the Chinese chess scene: Wei Yi, Wang Hao, Ni Hua, Yu Yangyi to just name a few.
I think that the recent renaissance of chess in China will see it offer a challenger to the World Chess Championships within the next four years. You’ve probably (and hopefully) already seen Wei Yi’s immortal game, so here are two games by two different Chinese Grandmasters that I think have a lot of potential in the near future.
Ding might be one of the most modest chess players I’ve seen over the years, which makes him just as dangerous to play against over the board. When asked in a New in Chess interview about Wei Yi following the 16 year old’s ascension to 2700, Ding said:
“Maybe I’m just a little stream or a little hill in front of him and it’s just a matter of time for Wei Yi to pass me.” –New in Chess, 2015 Magazine #6
Even if this is true, Ding Liren is still the 8th best player in the World, and of all the players on the Chinese National team, the most deserving of international attention. Back in January, Ding tied for second in the Tata Steel with 8.5/13, only a half point behind Magnus Carlsen. In that tournament, Ding posted 7 wins (more than any other of his adversaries) including victories over Radjabov, Aronian, and Wojtaszek. In his book, After Magnus, Anish Giri praises Ding Liren as “one of the best players of our time”.
Ding Liren – Boris Gelfand (Ding Liren–Gelfand, 2015)
A nice display from Ding Liren! In the New in Chess article about Ding Liren, there was mention that Gelfand was injured after two draws into the match, but I don’t think that it takes away from the quality that Ding brought to this game. From what was seemingly an equal position, Gelfand was constantly punished for having a bad light square bishop, while White managed to sacrifice a pawn for activity. Instructive stuff!
If you’ve heard of Lu Shanglei before, I’m quite impressed. To be quite honest, he only caught my attention when he held Veselin Topalov in the 2015 World Cup to force a tiebreak. Despite losing that match, Lu pushed Topalov to the edge, and the duration of that match likely played a small role in Veselin’s exit the following round against eventual finalist Peter Svidler. A relative unknown to the greater chess world, Lu Shanglei is the 16th best blitz player in the world, making his 2599 standard rating seem extremely deceiving. I don’t think he’ll be playing for the candidates tournament anytime soon, but at the age of 19, I think he will have plenty of time to reach 2700 and play with the best.
Mikhail Kobalia – Lu Shanglei (Aeroflot Open, 2015)
A great display from Lu Shanglei! What made this game truly enjoyable for me was how he was able to combine long-term positional strategies with tactics to seize the advantage. Once White tried 12. c4, Black’s play seemed really fluid, and Kobalia really wasn’t able to make a real effort to win the game.
If anything’s clear, its only a matter of time before the best of the Chinese team make regular appearances at the top level. The thought of Yu Yangyi, Wei Yi, or Wang Hao taking on a Fabiano Caruana or Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is already making my mouth water.
Like this article? Make sure to check out my gofundme page to help me get to New Orleans for the 2016 US Junior Open!
If you followed the World Cup before the Svidler v. Karjakin final earlier this week, then one name you’ve definitely seen in the media is Pavel Eljanov. Besides winning his first 6 classical games, he managed to eliminate Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Jakovenko, and Hikaru Nakamura before losing in the semifinal to Sergey Karjakin.
I first started studying Eljanov’s games after I watched his draw against Richard Rapport in the 48th Biel International earlier this year. In that game, Eljanov showed how to contain the Dutch Stonewall and gain a significant advantage with moves like 10. Rad1 and 18. Bd6, showing that is possible to control the center against Black’s fortress (to see that game, click here).
Though a relative unknown when compared to the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, and Anish Giri, Eljanov’s ability to gain space and contain his opponent’s is a major staple of his play, and definitely one of the reasons I find him very entertaining to watch. While some players find this style of play boring, the strongest players find Eljanov’s solidarity challenging to play against – even Hikaru Nakamura.
I watched most of Eljanov’s games live, but the most inspiring performance by far was his second game against Alexander Grischuk in the third round. After narrowly escaping with a win with Black, Eljanov only had to hold a draw with the White pieces to continue to the next round. Grischuk, one of the world’s most elite players (10th heading into the World Cup), didn’t stand a chance.
A great win by Eljanov, as he progressed to the next round to take on Dmitry Jakovenko. Even though Grischuk was playing for the win, the Ukrainian made the game look easy, with almost an effortless point. If you enjoyed how Eljanov played this game, I highly encourage you to check out his other games here.
Like this article? Make sure to check out my gofundme page to help me get to New Orleans for the 2016 US Junior Open!
Check out my first game representing the University of Pittsburgh in this new video! Paired against an expert from our rival Carnegie Mellon University, my opponent played 8. Bg5?! in the King’s Indian Fianchetto Variation, hoping to go out of theory early and complicate the game. Watch the video (bit.ly/1KTH64W) as I forced resignation just 12 moves later!