Last Friday, Isaac and I officially concluded our sixth week of training games, and now that the tide has turned somewhat, it’s a good time to reflect on the experience so far and what I’ll focus on moving forward. For anyone interested, the G/25+5 games have all been decisive with Isaac leading 7-5, though the score isn’t that important (of course, it’s easier to say that when behind!).
It’s clear that the contrast of styles is lending itself to some exciting and worthwhile exchanges. My background is clearly more of a practical nature, while Isaac has shown a good capacity for preparation and using theoretical knowledge. From the Black side, I’ve tried my luck against various flavors of the English, but there’s no better way to fight out the contrast than in a tense Reversed Closed Sicilian:
Without trying to generalize too much, White’s play tends to be more principled here (due to the extra tempo and slight development edge over the Black side of the original Closed Sicilian; also, because Isaac is usually there), while Black’s intuitive kingside play is still a worthy, if primitive, cause.
Sometimes, this works out beautifully for Black.
Other times, not so much!
As we’ve played more games, I’ve been able to see the value of preparation firsthand. It’s clear that preparation will become more important in my games as Black, and that’s likely what I’ll focus on in the near future. Fortunately, a big part of preparation is learning how to prepare, and even though I’m not facing Isaac’s English in every rated game, the process will nonetheless be a useful guide for the future.
Although my standards of preparation haven’t been particularly high (mostly due to lack of experience and not being able to organize my games until last week), the work I put in had enough effects for me to see the benefits.
I’d already tried to break down 1…e5 with little success; my attempts ranged from my usual Bishop’s Opening to the offbeat 4. Qe2 in the Berlin). However, I was able to locate a few games in the “Berlin Exchange” where Black’s knight made it slightly awkward to defend the e5 pawn, giving White extra time to exploit the long-term advantage created by Black’s doubled pawns. Alas, Isaac hadn’t covered 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3! yet, and got tangled after 5…Bd6 6. Nbd2 Bg4?! 7. Nc4 Qe7 8. h3 Bd7 9. Bd2 b5? 10. Ne3 g6 11. a4 Nh5 12. axb5 cxb5 13. Nd5.
Isaac had actually won 2/3 of the games up to that point, so this happened to be a turning point. However, since I didn’t prepare much myself, I didn’t play the same line next week. Fortunately, I wasn’t completely out of surprises yet, bringing out a line in the old Bishop’s Opening: 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ 6. c3.
Both of us had originally dismissed this as playing into Black’s hands and allowing an easy equalizer via …dxe4. However, after 6…Bd6 7. Bg5 dxe4 8. dxe4, the pin means Black isn’t quite out of the water yet, and defending the e5 pawn proved harder than it looked, especially after Nbd2-c4.
I trust Isaac caught up with both of those lines, and probably most of the other tricks I could have thought of. Fortunately, along with my games from the Black side, these have given me a good foundation for future prep, so I’m definitely looking forward to some more great games in the weeks to come!