Strategic Concepts: The Wedge on d6

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Tabling for Pitt Chess Club at the Peterson Events Center

Prior to flying to St Louis for the Rapid and Blitz, I took a quick road trip to the Cleveland Open where I had a somewhat lackluster performance. I got reasonable positions out of each game, but my form was simply off and the momentum I built in Columbus simply didn’t translate into results.

With the fall term starting and my rating bouncing between 2130 and 2160, the road to National Master seemed to get getting longer, not shorter. With one game at the Pittsburgh Chess Club left for the summer, I decided to put all this stress aside and just play chess – a mindset I’ve brought up several times here on Chess^Summit.  How did I do this with the White pieces? 1. e4!

Chess with a New Face

Drawing inspiration from my final round in Reykjavik last April, I opted for Fischer’s “best-by-test” move and forced myself to think from move 1. I actually won a really nice game (which I will attach below), but I wanted to focus on a critical moment where I executed a strategic idea I had studied from the recent FIDE Grand Prix in Geneva:

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Steincamp–Kostyak, position after 10…Be7

After ten moves, White is clearly better. I have an extra pawn, and I’ve managed to kick Black’s knight to a5 where it has no mobility. When my opponent played 10…Be7, I immediately wanted to break open the position and stop Black from castling with 11. d4, with ideas of dropping a knight on d6 and wreaking havoc in the center. However, Black’s superior development makes it near impossible to breakthrough – in fact, in some variations, Black is even better if White takes too many risks (thanks to the White king still being on e1).

It didn’t take me long to realize that Black has some compensation in his development for the pawn – not enough for equality, but certainly enough to stay in the game. Needing to catch up in development, I played 11. 0-0 0-0 12. d6!. Here’s an excerpt from my game notes I wrote after the game concluded:

“20 minute think – This was a hard move to make because this pawn does look weak and it lets the a5 knight back into the game [via c6]. The problem for White is that despite the material advantage, I am lacking in development, so a slower approach lets Black back into the game. This move is aimed to help me catch up and activate my pieces. I wasn’t 100% sure I was keeping the pawn, but the amount of tempi it would take to win it should leave Black with a worse position”

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Steincamp-Kostyak, position after 12. d6!

To summarize, I’m basically throwing a wrench into Black’s position. While Black tries to play around this pawn, I’ll get the time I need to create a harmonious set-up. This is an important move in the game because it stops Black’s plan of …f7-f5, and without this, Black really doesn’t have much. After 12…Bf6, the position turns static, where I hold an extra pawn and Black has two misplaced pieces – the knight on a5 and the bishop on f6. Much to my satisfaction, this d6 pawn not only helped me develop, but also helped me conduct an attack in the center and on the kingside. You can play through the game in full here with my notes and analysis.

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Pondering this 11. 0-0, 12. d6 idea, Photo Credit: Franklin Chen

Theoretical Notes

So what is it about this d5-d6 push that makes it so powerful? Surely in principle this is a hyper-extension! Let’s not rush to conclusions. The idea revolves around Black’s ability to make a blockade. Here’s a game of mine from the Columbus Open last June:

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Wright–Steincamp, position after 16…Nd6

Here I just played 16…Nd6 following the standard knight blockade idea in the King’s Indian. Even though my knight’s primary function is defensive, it hits a lot of critical squares (c4, b5), and thus is an active piece. This knight is a strong enough piece that my higher rated opponent decided to play 17. Nxd6 cxd6 18. Rfd1, and with the center closed, the game eventually petered out to a draw.

There are two distinct differences between a pawn on d5 and one on d6:

  1. A Black knight on d6 is an active blockader. From behind the d5 pawn, it can reach c4 and e4, and pressure various points in White’s camp.
  2. A Black knight on d6 can be supported by a pawn, whereas a knight on d7 cannot. This is an important distinction, because when White has a pawn on d6, he can play to undermine the blockade. In the example above, we saw that the pawn on d5 was neutralized after 17…cxd6.

If we return to my game where I played 12. d6!, we quickly see that the knight on d7 is a poor blockader and can’t contribute to the central fight:

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Steincamp-Kostyak, position after 12. d6!

Black is by no means obligated to blockade this pawn, but if he isn’t careful, the threat of promotion can become overwhelming – thus is the power of a pawn on d6. Of course, I can’t take credit for this strategic idea, and for that I have to thank my modern predecessor, Peter Svidler, for bringing it to my attention.

Svidler Pushes Delroy

As I mentioned, I was inspired to push my d-pawn from an earlier example during the FIDE Grand Prix in Geneva earlier this summer. Peter Svidler, in a last round clash with former Women’s World Champ Hou Yifan, pushed the d-pawn and got a nice win:

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Svidler–Hou Yifan, position after 16. d6!

In this game, Hou Yifan opted not to create a blockade, and was swiftly punished with a further d6-d7 push, as her rook was tied down to d8. Even though the computer evaluates the above position as equal, Svidler showed just how easy it was to smash through Black’s defensive resources in this win.

I watched the commentary for this game live, and I distinctly remember GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko saying “this is the way to punish these positions”, and that just stuck with me…

Beat the Youngster with Old School Chess!

With the World Cup starting last Sunday, I’ve found myself spoiled for choice when it comes to analyzing games. One fixture that caught my attention was 2016 World Champion Challenger Sergey Karjakin against International Master Anton Smirnov. Even though Smirnov held his own at the Match of the Millennials earlier this summer, I would not have predicted that Karjakin would need tiebreaks to outlast the youngster.

In their first tiebreak, Smirnov had out-prepared Karjakin from the Black side of a Petrov and established equality out of the opening with a massive time advantage. Surely  Smirnov could keep the course and head into the next tiebreaker on an even score, right? Unfortunately, the youngster from Australia got tricked by a mirage when he materialistically played 23…Bxf3?:

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Karjakin–Smirnov, position after 23…Bxf3?

Thinking he could snack on h3, Smirnov must have been surprised after 24. gxf3 Qxh3 25. d5! where he realized this pawn was going to d6, restricting Black’s pieces in the center. Even with Karjakin’s damaged kingside, this proved too strong for Smirnov, and he went down in the endgame. I really like this example, because it really showcases the strength of the central passed pawn. Again, the computer gives 23…Bxf3 an equal evaluation, but just like Svidler–Hou Yifan, we are starting to see we need to treat these positions differently.

Conclusions

Of course pushing your pawn all the way to d6 alone won’t win you games, but it is certainly a viable option when considering how to restrict your opponent’s counterplay. Its important to notice how in each of these games, the pawn on d6 acts as a wedge, and makes it easier to play in both the center and on the flanks. So next time the opportunity presents itself, strongly consider d5-d6! (or …d4-d3!) – it might just win you the game!

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Isaac Talks Chess^Summit Sweepstakes!

I am really excited about the 2017 FIDE World Cup. As you know, the Chess^Summit World Cup Sweepstakes is open and comes to a close on Sunday, September 3rd. There are a lot of really cool prizes up for grabs – Chessable memberships, ChessOpeningsExplained memberships, free lessons, and so much more!

In this video, I give you an insider look into Chessable and ChessOpeningsExplained, as well as what my thoughts are on the World Cup. Anyone else have Peter Svidler making a repeat appearance in the final? Enjoy!

Chess^Summit World Cup Sweepstakes!

It’s that time of year, as the 2017 FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia is just days away! This edition of the 128 single elimination playoff is the strongest ever, and the two finalists will earn coveted spots in the 2018 Candidates Tournament. With so much on the line, we decided to join in with the Chess^Summit World Cup Sweepstakes! Luckily enough, you all can play along and win some cool prizes along the way!
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At 2799, Caruana is #5 in the world rankings. How far do you have him going?

This particular edition of the World Cup is historic, as reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen has decided to join the fray, making him the first reigning champion to compete in a World Cup in recent memory. Can he make it to the final? Perhaps – he has a tough road – Svidler, Wojtaszek, Vacier-Lagrave, and Grischuk are potentially all in his way… just to get to the semifinal! The competition is brutal, but this time you get to tell us if you think the Norwegian has what it takes.

There are other big questions: Does Anand earn one of the two Candidates spots in Tblisi? Which of the fifteen juniors goes the farthest? Who will be the strongest American finisher in the World Cup? Earn your spot on our leaderboard to win memberships to up-and-coming chess websites, lessons, and more!
Take your time to learn the bracket – you can count on a lot of surprises!

How to Play

Enter the sweepstakes through the link below. We will be raffling away some prizes throughout the World Cup, so make sure to send us your contact information so we know how to contact you if you win a prize.
There are 24 points on the line – with each question you answer correctly, you score more points. Some questions are worth more than others, so answer wisely! Players that finish the World Cup points will win prizes – it’s that simple!

Prizes

How could we have a sweepstakes and not have amazing prizes? We reached out to some up-and-coming chess platforms from around the web, and we have some great prizes for you. Remember, we will be raffling some of these prizes, so don’t be shy and send us your submission!

Chessable

monkeyToRightYou may have heard of Chessable, but it’s the online tool the cool kids use to get better at chess, so now’s your chance to catch up! The site offers an interactive platform to learn openings, and now one of the best places on the internet to learn theoretical endgames thanks to it’s partnership with New in Chess. International Master John Bartholomew and David Kramaley, the founders of Chessable, have offered up five PRO memberships and five copies of John Bartholomew’s book on the Scandinavian to the lucky winners of our Sweepstakes. We will be raffling away one of each, so don’t miss out!

Here’s a quick video John made this video on his Youtube Channel, talking about the new endgames enhancement that just came out on Chessable:

ChessOpeningsExplained

ChessOpeningsExplainedGrowing up with chess.com, I grew up with videos from Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn! Luckily enough, GM Perelshteyn has started his own website, ChessOpeningsExplained with his recommended opening repertoire. One of the better kept internet chess secrets, ChessOpeningsExplained offers an easy-to-use site where you can ask GM Perelshteyn directly about any opening questions you may have! GM Perelshteyn, a past guest author here on Chess^Summit, has offered full-access memberships to ChessOpeningsExplained! These prizes will be distributed in our raffle, as well as to some of our top finishers in the sweepstakes!

Here’s the most recent ChessOpeningsExplained video, about the Jobava Attack, which Daniel Naroditsky played against Eugene Perelshteyn at the recent Washington International.

International Master Kostya Kavutskiy

photo.jpgThe last time we heard from Kostya was back in April for the Reykjavik Open when he smashed his competition with an unbelievable 6th place finish! Since making daily tournament videos with me in Iceland, International Master Kostya Kavutskiy has been working on the Grandmaster title, but has also been teaching along the way. In this sweepstakes, Kostya has offered up a free 30 minute lesson to a lucky winner and one personalized game analysis! Both of these prizes will be offered up in our raffle, so don’t miss out on a chance to work with a professional player, coach, and author!

Check out Kostya’s video from his most recent Chess University course on Positional Sacrifices:

International Master David Brodsky

2400.4David is no stranger to Chess^Summit – in fact he’s been an author for us since last October! Since joining with us, David’s earned the International Master title, and shared a lot about his personal experiences and chess improvement.

We hear a lot about rapidly improving youngsters in chess, but have you ever gotten a chance to play one? David has offered a 30 minute blitz session with him for a lucky winner in our sweepstakes. David is the third strongest 14 year old in the United States – do you have what it takes to take down the International Master from New York?

Candidate Master Isaac Steincamp

Hi there! Yeah, this is me – how else could I resist joining in on the fun? I’m offering a private game analysis, complete with annotations and opening recommendations in our raffle. I’ve written some Free Game Analysis posts in the past, but this time my analysis will go even more in depth to help you find problems in your game. Outside of my quest to make National Master, I’ve always had a passion for coaching. Here’s your chance to work with me!

Here’s my most recent video for ChessOpeningsExplained:

Want to offer a prize? It’s still not to late! E-mail us at chess.summit@gmail.com to let us know!

With so many prizes at stake, this is not a sweepstakes to miss! Make sure to send in your submission before 6:59 AM EST on September 3rd, when clocks start in Tbilisi. This is going to be a fun World Cup, and we’re excited to celebrate one of the best chess traditions in style!

A Weekend with the Best: The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz

St Louis has been on my bucket list for years. Why wouldn’t it be? The now-famous chess club, tucked in the Central West End, plays host to a myriad of world-class chess events every year: the US Chess Championships, the Sinquefield Cup, and this past week, the St Louis Rapid and Blitz. I don’t think I could have picked a better first time to make the trip.

While the field lacked the likes of reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Sinquefield Cup winner Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, a certain former World Champion’s return after a twelve-year absence captured the international spotlight and attention of chess fans worldwide. It was truly something else.

The Race Is On

Kasparov’s return to chess was not easy, and it wasn’t until the last day of the tournament when he finally found his form. When it was all said and done, the former World Champion finished a half point out of a tie for 5th place. That dreaded loss to Navara in the rapid really did his undoing this tournament…

I, like many others, had picked Kasparov to place well (I even thought second place was realistic!), but the lofty expectations proved too much. Kasparov started with a lackluster score in the rapid at -2,  much of which can be attributed to massive pressure to perform and his long absence from tournament chess. He had some interesting games along the way, but to the dismay of the spectators, never posed a threat to the tournament.

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Levon getting ready for his match up with David Navara Friday morning.

I arrived in St. Louis right after the rapid games finished, and with eighteen rounds of blitz left, Levon Aronian had established himself as the front-runner with a two point lead. Could he score par? At 12.5/18, he held on to his lead throughout the blitz, but came to a close scare when Sergey Karjakin scored an undefeated 8/9 on the first day, and started the second with 1. b3 and won against Kasparov.

Of all the players in the field, it was the tail-ender that proved the most important, as Czech Grandmaster David Navara dealt a surprising blow to Levon Aronian in round 11 of the blitz from a drawn ending to bring the margin to 1 point between first and second place. The narrative almost seemed set, the race between Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian was on! The 2016 World Championship Challenger had won seven straight and had a lot of momentum.

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David Navara proved to be an important player in the St Louis story, despite finishing last in the standings.

But streaks stop at seven in St. Louis. Navara pulled another upset, this time as Black against Karjakin, while Aronian put together a win against Le Quang Liem. The Armenian’s lead was back up to 2, and with only six rounds left, his tournament chances were never in doubt. He secured his Grand Chess Tour tournament win with a draw against Kasparov with two rounds to spare.

Karjakin’s setback against Navara meant the end of his tournament winning chances, but still had work to do after Hikaru Nakamura beat him late to keep the two in a dogfight at the top of the table. With Nakamura beating Caruana in the last round, the American secured a tie for second alongside his Russian rival at a score of 21.5/36.

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I got a photo with Nakamura after his win against Caruana! Photo Credit: Eric Rosen

A Day in St Louis

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The crowd before the first round on Friday!

Being a reporter for the St Louis Rapid and Blitz meant also a lot of behind-the-scenes work and amusing stories as well. Given Kasparov’s return to chess, hundreds of chess fans made the trek to the Gateway City, meaning that at times it could be difficult to watch games during a given round.

I distinctly remember getting stuck behind Peter Doggers before the final day’s opening round. Wanting to see if Karjakin could beat Kasparov, it felt like I was standing behind an eight foot tall giant! I don’t think I remember ever feeling so short…

Even with so many spectators, the atmosphere was great, and I even found myself playing in a few side events along the way. It’s one thing to hear about St Louis Chess, it’s another thing to actually be there. In reporting for Chess^Summit, I felt really lucky to interview some of the players, and be invited to the closing ceremony.

I put together a vlog to recreate the last day of the Rapid and Blitz, as well as a small tour of the Chess Campus in St Louis:

Ultimate Moves

With all this excitement, my stay in St Louis was hardly over, as the famous Sinquefield Brawl, Ultimate Moves, followed after the tournament. Even though the players were exhausted, it felt like they (particularly Garry) took the event even more seriously.

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Garry watching over Ruifeng Li’s seven-year old sister, Rachel, take on former NFL lineman John Urschel.

I’m not going to lie, the tournament room was hot, as an unprecedented number of fans came to watch Garry one last time. I was one of the first people in the playing hall, but finding a good spot to take photos from still wasn’t easy. If you couldn’t tell during the broadcast, people were that excited to watch the former World Champ – even if it was only five moves at a time! You’re going to need your Where’s Waldo skills to find me in the crowd:

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Eric and I had to be creative to find spots to take photos… Can you find us?

This event was a blast to watch, as all the players were encouraged to smack-talk during the games. Even David Navara, the nicest guy in the room, joined in on the fun: “It’s not nice to beat your children!”

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What was that opening?

Team Rex got the better of Team Randy in a tiebreaker, as Randy made his dad’s staple move in the end and promoted illegally to lose the match. Even if the level of chess wasn’t super high, it was a lot of fun watching the players come together and root for the amateurs. You don’t see this kind of stuff outside of St Louis…

Just in Time!

I had an extra day to spare in St Louis before visiting my parents in Richmond, which meant I was lucky enough to watch the eclipse from the path of totality! What a coincidence – this managed to be a popular discussion among spectators as the Rapid and Blitz came to a close, and with Eric skipping town early to drive south to watch the eclipse from Carbondale, I was on my own to try to get a peek before my flight home.

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Found the Arch! Photo Credit: Eric Rosen

Having spent the summer in Pittsburgh, and being solely in St Louis for the Rapid and Blitz, viewing the eclipse hadn’t even crossed my radar. No glasses, no special lenses for my camera, no idea of where to watch from.

As I finished my breakfast from the Kingside Diner, I was frantically calling local museums and zoos to try to find glasses, but to no luck! I had one hour before the eclipse started and if I wasn’t careful, my eyes were going to melt out of my face (right?)! Luckily enough, I managed to befriend a nurse who just finished her shift at the local hospital and was also looking for glasses, and we managed to find glasses at the St Louis Cardinals’ stadium in Downtown and was able to watch the eclipse from there.

Wow. I didn’t have the right lenses to take a photo of the eclipse, as you can see, it was amazing how quickly things got dark. I don’t think I’ll ever see something like this again, and I’m even luckier that everything came together so nicely in the last minute.

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Busch Stadium seconds before the eclipse – remember, it was 1:17PM here!

As Kasparov said during the closing ceremony, “Miracles happen in St Louis”, and that’s certainly what this week was. Will Kasparov ever make a comeback? I have a hunch it will be before 2024.

 

Time Trouble: Tick Tock Goes the Chess Clock

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Grabbing a coffee at Biddle’s Escape

Today’s article is a case study on time management. Admittedly, this article won’t prove to be fairest comparison, but my goal is to show how consciously managing your time can make a difference in your games.

Since my last post, I’ve played two games at the Wild Card Open. In my second round, I wound up losing a close encounter with FM Gabriel Petesch, though as we will see in this post, had I managed my time better, I might have found myself getting my revenge from our previous match. In the next round, I managed to crack open the resilient defense of a lower rated player, thanks in large part to my active time management.

How can you actively manage your time? Learning how to do this takes lots of experience, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. What are the critical positions? Knowing when to stop and think is a good first step. If there are five or six good options in a position, it would be a mistake to spend more than five minutes on that move! Of course, some positions require more attention, and knowing when those moments occur is also critical.
  2. How much time are you spending in the opening? Unless you’ve been surprised out of the opening, it’s not advisable to spend more than ten minutes in the opening, especially if there is no second time control.  Learning your opening repertoire well isn’t just supposed to give you a good position, but it has the secondary intention of not wasting time in the opening. Critical positions happen later, save it for then!
  3. Endgames require proper analysis. Endgames are delicate creatures, as poor technique can spoil an entire game’s work. Your goal should be to have at least thirty minutes on the clock once you reach move 30. If you can do this, you should have enough time to complete the game!
  4. Make smart decisions! If you have the static advantage, don’t waste time calculating risky ideas, look for ways to improve your position.
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Thinking…

For those of you who have trouble managing your time, following these tips can already improve your results. After all, it’s better to make a small inaccuracy with lots of time left than make a blunder with just a few seconds left.

When I was growing up, there weren’t many exercises focused on time management. In fact, the only tip I can remember before I broke 1700 was to continuously work on tactics. To an extent, this is true. Working on tactics does help you calculate faster and recognize patterns, but as I’m sure you already know, during a practical game there is not a tactic on every move.

Do You Crack Under Pressure?

So how can you work on time management off the board? Well, today you’re in luck! In today’s article, I’m going to share six positions from my loss to Gabe Petesch.

Your goal is to find the best move in all seven in under 50 minutes.  All of these positions occurred before move 30, and during the game, I spent about 70 minutes across all of these positions. On move 30, I had ten minutes left and proceeded to blow my nice edge I had worked so hard for – how nice would it be to have an extra 20 minutes?!

Just like a tournament game, it is your job to decide how much time to allocate for each move. Remember, in the spirit of the exercise, you should be doing these in sequential order – do you spend more time now for and hope for an easier game later? If you’ve got the time, I would recommend setting up a board and using a clock. If you’re pressed for time, I’ve got a link to the entire game below this exercise, but you would be missing out!

In each of the positions, it is White’s move!

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position after 10…c6
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position after 12…Qb6
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position after 14…Qc7
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position after 18…Nd7
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position after 19…b6
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position after 20…a5
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position after 23…Ne4

Tough test? Just remember that every minute you spent beyond the limit, you have even less time for what proved to still be a complex game after move thirty. On top of that, we haven’t even begun to discuss what the various psychological effects that come with playing someone nearly 2400 strength can do to your clock are – but let’s stay focused on the over-the-board positions for now. If you’re ready, let’s see how you did, and where you possibly lost time.

Processing Results

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Studying at Carnegie Mellon’s Collaborative Commons. Who knew having an extra monitor could be so nice?

Around this time last year, I learned that my opening repertoire was strategically unsound, and now I’m learning that my time management could be better. Of course time management isn’t an over night fix, but I do have the chess knowledge to apply the points from above. I guess what I’m trying to say is that time management is not the worst problem to have, and it is no reason to be discouraged.

In my next game, I played a much weaker player, but just like my first round opponent, found a lot of defensive resources to hold on. I could have tried to calculate a lot of subtleties out of the opening, but instead I just focused on making natural moves and had 46 minutes left on move 30! What a turnaround! This proved to be the advantage that tipped the scales – even though I was better for much of the game, my opponent collapsed on move 45 with less than a minute left, where I still had 20 to spare.

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Watching the Sinquefield Cup with some homemade ramen.

This wasn’t my best game ever, nor was my opponent of a similar strength, but what this did show me was how familiarity with a pawn structure can go a long ways towards ensuring active time management. My opponent opted for a tame London System, and once we reached the Carlsbad pawn structure, where I simply knew more than my opponent. By move 14, I had the better position, and then proceeded to manuever until White fell apart.

As I began the article, to compare these two games as equals would be unfair. My loss to Gabe was clearly more complicated, and had a lot more pitfalls when it comes to active time management. Sure. However, what my win does show is how time management can be used as a way to win games! Actively managing your clock takes practice, but constantly finding places to improve in your own games means getting better results.

Upcoming Chess Adventures

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The last time I was in Cleveland, I earned the Candidate Master Title, and got recognized by US Chess for my second round win!

I have got a fun end to the summer planned out, and its all about chess! Beyond the last two rounds of the Wild Card Open, the Cleveland Open starts next weekend with my second trip to Ohio this summer! I seem to have a pretty good record in the Buckeye State, so I’m hoping for a strong performance to finish the summer.

Just days after returning to Pittsburgh, I’ll be off to St. Louis to catch the conclusion of the Rapid and Blitz, in which Garry Kasparov will make his return to competitive chess. Even if it’s just a one time thing, I’m going to be pretty content knowing I was there for it! Do I think Kasparov can win? No. But then again, these are the tournaments that legends are made of, and Kasparov is certainly a legend needing no introduction.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 09.14.30As the fall semester here at Pitt begins, I’ll be continuing my work towards the National Master title, but also preparing the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers for what should be an exciting 2018 PRO Chess League Season. In case you’ve missed it, we’ve already started selling shirts to get ready for the next campaign!

If you enjoy watching the Pawngrabbers and want to see an even stronger team next year, I highly encourage you to get some gear or make a donation on the site!

This summer is coming to an end pretty quickly, and its hard to believe I’m going to have to take classes again for the first time in nine months! That’s going to be rough… but until then: chess, chess, chess!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers T-Shirt Sale!

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 09.14.30Yinz got game? We’re pretty big Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers fans here at Chess^Summit and we’re thrilled to see the Black and Gold be one of the 24 returning teams for next season!

This is great news for Chess^Summit, as we will be streaming the Pawngrabbers’ matches live each week, and featuring some of Pittsburgh’s best players here on the site.

Yesterday, the Pawngrabbers announced a T-shirt sale to help gear up for the 2018 PRO Chess League Season, and if you’re a hardcore Pittsburgh fan like us, you’ll make sure to grab this limited edition shirt before the sale ends! The Pawngrabbers are in the market for a strong free agent, and are hoping to use the proceeds from this sale to sign a top flight Grandmaster to play alongside World Chess Hall of Famer Alexander Shabalov!

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Who is going to play alongside Shabalov next season?

This is your chance! If you want to be a part of the Pittsburgh team, get a shirt! I’ve already snagged mine and I’m pretty excited to wear it next season!

Endgame Essentials: Making Your Opponent Press the Self-Destruct Button

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably knew what was coming: endgames! Last Tuesday, I had an instructive win with Black against a lower rated player at the Wild Card Open. While my opponent was guilty of playing for a draw, he did put up some tough resistance in the endgame, which made it fitting to cover in today’s edition of Endgames Essentials.

For long-time readers of Chess^Summit, you may be familiar with my Endgame Essentials series that I started last year, studying the games of Magnus Carlsen and other top level Grandmasters. For our newer readers, welcome! In Endgame Essentials, I focus more on endgame technique than converting technical positions. So far, I’ve discussed critical factors like pawn structure, king safety, and piece activity which can effect the overall assessment of a position.

But let’s say you have the advantage – you’ve done your homework: induced a weakness, gotten a small material advantage, or stopped all of your opponent’s counterplay. How do you convert from here? Sometimes its a good idea to let your opponent hit the self-destruct button…

Perhaps Napoleon says it best:

“…when your enemy is executing a false movement, never interrupt him.”

– A biographical magazine from 1852 quoting Napoleon Bonaparte

While Napoleon was never considered a member of the chess elite, this is actually great advice, especially for practical endgame play! If you have a long-term advantage in the endgame, it is your opponent’s responsibility to generate dynamic counterplay and change the nature of the game. So be patient and don’t complicate the position!

This idea of being patient during endgames is exactly what I wanted to talk about in my game from last Tuesday. I’ve made a video recap with my thoughts, but if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, you can play through the game here at your own pace!

As I repeated throughout the video – if you know you have the better position, let your advantages accumulate before doing anything drastic in the position. And never – ever – let your opponent get counterplay.

The Next Chapter

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Whether it’s the night-time view from Mt Washington (see cover photo) or watching the Pirates get blanked by St Louis, there’s a lot to do in Pittsburgh!

My next test in the Wild Card Open is a toughie. Remember FM Gabe Petesch? I’ll have White in my chance to avenge my two-game match defeat from earlier this month. I’m not sure what to expect, but I think it should be a fun, hard-fought game … and hopefully something worth sharing on Chess^Summit!

 

My mentality for this tournament is reminiscent of my Columbus Open performance, but the added wrinkle of playing opponents I know well makes this event much more challenging than the latter. While I will be pushed in ways I haven’t really been pushed before, my goal is to play smart chess, and be on the right track to play good chess in Cleveland – the finale to my summer.