Today’s game has a little more fire than usual. Rather than opting for a positional game, I took some risk playing …c5-c4 (I could have just …a7-a6) and sacrificing the exchange to get a massive kingside attack. Hope you enjoy!
No matter how much you study theory, someone will always find a way to get out of your opening knowledge against you in a tournament game. How you handle those positions will largely determine the outcome of the game, not the fact that you had read an entire book in preparation for the match.
While some club players may disagree, when your opponent chooses to go out of “book”, he is not necessarily making a mistake, but rather making a less battle tested move. As the player, its your job to figure out why. Let’s look at some games where I was put in this situation.
24…Qd7 25.fxe5 Bg7 26.Qf2 Rf8 27.Qf1 b5 28.Bh3 Qa7 29.Kh1 White went on to win on move 41.
This game was instructive, because while Black opted for a less favorable line, he was by no means losing. By playing to improve my own position, Black ran out of active options and grew impatient, creating weaknesses with …a7-a6 and …e6-e5. The next game was from last April’s National High School Chess Championships where after a long day, I needed a win to play for a spot in the top 30 the next day.
Steincamp – Golias (National High School Chess Championships, 2015)
This game was a much easier win than the first game because Black took drastic measures and refused to follow opening principles. However, just like the first game, I was able to take away my opponent’s resources without creating any weaknesses of my own.
On a basic level, the main takeaway should be to follow the chess opening principles. When your opponent deviates from your theoretical knowledge, ask yourself if your opponent failed to accomplish one of these goals. If this is not the case, try to pinpoint what your opponent’s plan is, and find creative ways to eliminate the threat!
As some of you may know, I take a lot of pride in what my high school chess team was able to achieve in the three years I served as team captain and coach, which is why I’m extremely happy to have the opportunity to analyze some of their games from this season today!
One aspect of the MLWGS team that makes it unique from other schools in Virginia is that during practice, the players play rated games against each other to improve their openings and tactical knowledge. While its extremely difficult to gain points in these once-a-week ladders, it gives the players a lot of tournament experience and confidence when they play in competitive events. For the first game today, we will analyze a rated game between Vishnu Pulavarthi and Trey Johnson.
27.Rxd5 exd5+ 28.Kxd5 Kd7 29.Rc1 Rb6 30.Kc5 Kc7 31.b4 axb4 32.Kxb4+ Kb7 33.Rd1 Rf6 34.f3 Rf4+ 35.Ka5 Under 5 minutes, White stop notating, and went on to win the game. 1-0
A very back-and-forth game, as both sides had winning opportunities in each phase of the game. Considering that both players at the time were rated under 1100, I would say that both players played a little bit better than their level. What can we take away from this match?
Putting your pieces on the right squares is crucial. In this game, White missed a lot of opportunities because the bishop was on d3, and not on e2.
Don’t oversimplify. Trey cost himself a win when he put his knight on d4, offering White a pawn up endgame for no compensation. Just because its easier to calculate, doesn’t mean its better for you.
Be active in the endgame. I think this game demonstrated the extremes of this before Black fell apart in the endgame. White took a really simple position and made it difficult by not developing his rooks and trading the bishop, his only developed piece.
Lastly, tricks are for kids! I can’t stress this enough. Trey was practically lost when he played 25… a5?, but this cheap trick (which Vishnu saw immediately) cost him the key tempo to put his rook on d2, and really complicate the matter. Chances are, if the trick is simple and there is an easy way out, its not a move worth playing.
Wow, the most instructive analysis game so far, and we haven’t even gotten to the second game!
Our next game features the current MLWGS Chess Team Captain, and reigning MLWGS Chess Champion, Jeffrey Song. I’ve worked with Jeffrey since he joined the team as a freshman, and in recent months, his rating has skyrocketed, going from the low 1300s to the mid-1500s. As always, with every major rating jump comes a big adjustment to survive at the next level. Here’s a game from the high school junior from a tournament this past weekend.
Song – Phillips (Kemps Landing Scholastic and Quads, 2015)
1…d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d3 g6 4.e4
4…Nc6 5.Be2 Bg7 6.O-O O-O 7.Qe1
8.Qh4 Bg4 9.c3 Qd7
10.h3 Bxf3 11.Rxf3 e6 12.g4 b5
14.Nd2 a5 15.f5!
15…exf5 16.gxf5 Ne5 17.Rg3 Qd8 18.Bg5 c5
19.Nf3 Ned7 20.d4 cxd4 21.Bxb5?!
21…Qb6 22.Nxd4 Nh5 23.fxg6??
23…Bxd4+ 24.cxd4 Qxd4+?
This is a difficult game to assess because after White’s preparation panned out, Jeffrey was not the most effective in the conversion process, nearly costing himself a win. Black on the other hand, played passively for most of the game, but was at least willing to take some chances before the game was over. Considering the game was at a much higher level than the last one, the takeaways are also a little more complex:
Don’t just count on opening preparation! This game felt like a cookie-cutter attack gone wrong, as White lost objectivity when he took on b5, opening the game back up. Furthermore, with Black opening with 1… d6, White missed some opportunities to transpose into more challenging lines by playing quickly.
Don’t waste tempi. Black moved the same pieces multiple times throughout the game, costing him an opportunity to play for the initiative out of the opening. I can commiserate with Black having to play against an unfamiliar opening and not knowing what to do, but playing a few tempi down is always going to be difficult.
The …d5 ‘priyome’ against the kingside pawn storm is definitely an advanced idea that was much needed in this game for Black to stay competitive. If you’re interested in other such positional concepts, I highly recommend Soltis’ book. With the exception of the quizzes, this book is easy to read without a chess board, and really instructive!
The game is over when the opponent is checkmated, runs out of time, resigns, or agrees to a draw. I’m definitely not the one to be saying this as I’ve fallen prey to late mistakes in winning positions, but White needed to see this game out before making artificial decisions. Taking on b5 and relieving the tension on the kingside were both moments that let Black into the game, really showing how it takes only one mistake to lose a game – even at this level.
These were some great games, and I hope to see more next week for my next game analysis! Make sure to send your games to email@example.com, and if you’re lucky, I’ll choose your game to be featured next week.
One year after I miraculously survived a completely lost endgame at the National High School Chess Championships in San Diego, I found myself in a similar situation in the first round of the same event in Columbus.
While I wasn’t lost, I had dropped a pawn in the opening, and at first, things looked like they were about to turn sour. However, through the use of just one file, I was able to maximize the activity of all my pieces, reaching an endgame where only I had winning chances. I really liked this game, because I was able to use a lot of similar ideas that I did in the original “How to Swindle”, while limiting all of my opponent’s counterplay. I hope you enjoy!