Hi, I’m Xiao

Hello Chess^Summit fans!

My name is Xiao, and I’m glad you’re joining me on my first article with the team.

In this post, I’ll chat with you on my chess stories and how chess shaped me in many aspects outside of the game. Without further ado, let’s get started.

My Chess Beginnings

I learned chess in China when my mom brought home a chess board from work. And then I joined a chess club in kindergarten to get started in chess training.

My memories are fuzzy about the details of these chess days, but I do remember chess always brought more fun for me.

Losing in chess were not painful at all for me during this period.

One thing led to another, while in China, I joined a chess school, where my foundation was build.

I played in many tournaments in and out of my hometown Tianjin. Around third grade, I also worked with a chess trainer, who helped me further improve my chess fundamentals.

Losing now started to become annoying, but not much more than that.

Continuation of Chess in the U.S

In 2001, I came to U.S with my parents. And without much break, my parents found the Atlanta Chess Center after a month in Atlanta. My chess days in the U.S. started there. When you go thru my rating history, about 80% of my tournaments were played in the Atlanta Chess Center.

From 2001 to 2007, I played chess intensely, and really worked towards improving my game and rating.

2005 to 2006 were my highlight years, but for some reason, the painful lost games were always more memorable. I suppose this is human psychology at work.

I will talk about more about one of the painful games in my next post.

Going to College. Stopped Playing Chess

Before my senior year in high school, I decided to take a break from chess. Academics was a driver, my SAT was not good, and I haven’t taken any AP classes yet.

Another reason was my lack of tool set in terms of running the chess marathon. My psychology was reactive. I was chasing the destination instead of the journey.

The initial one year break, turned out to be over 7 years. I followed chess sparingly. However, my mind was unconsciously connecting the dots between chess emotions with everything outside of the game.

This period is when I started to think about psychology in and out of chess, and today it is still an interesting topic for me to pander.

My psychology to losing in anything become more robust. And I started to enjoy the process of running a marathon than crossing the finishing line.

Came Back to Teach Chess

I started working in 2014 and I learned the concept of side hustle during this time. I immediately found it enticing. Teaching chess was an easy choice, and it didn’t take long for me to get started.

When I teach chess classes, talking about chess concepts is certainly important, but I try to constantly relate to student’s chess emotions.

The vast amount of chess knowledge online has made information much easier to acquire. Simply type ‘chess’ in Google and you can get started.

However, building a strong emotional foundation in and out of chess is a more intense process. I’m still trying to figure out the route for myself, and I hope to share with the readers.

Chess^Summit Journey

I’ll write about chess analysis from time to time. But I’d want to talk more about chess psychology in my posts at Chess^Summit.

Welcome to my Chess^Summit journey, and I hope you had enjoyed the first run so far!

See you in the next post!

P.s: I’m always happy to chat on Twitter (simplerxiao). Say hi next time you’re there or to the Chess^Summit team.

 

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Welcome to Chess^Summit!

Hi everyone, welcome to the newest edition of Chess^Summit! As I mentioned in my last few posts prior to the US Junior Open, I’ll be adding three ambitious players to the site who you’ll get to know very well in the upcoming weeks. While the four of us may have somewhat similar goals, our unique perspectives and understandings of chess will make each of our journeys to the next level vastly different. I’m really excited to continue sharing my own experiences here on Chess^Summit, but with the added twist that I too will now get to learn from this site that I created two years ago.

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A great line-up for our opening two weeks. Our first two guest authors will be my coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, and International Master Alexander Katz. Don’t miss out!

With the US Junior fully behind me, I’ve had some time to assess my play and consider new goals for the remainder of the summer and beyond. Knowing from personal experience that setting a goal to win a tournament is perhaps not the greatest idea, it would seem as if setting a rating goal would be rather appropriate. However, even this has its flaws. When looking back on my tournaments in NYC, Washington DC, Charlotte, and New Orleans from earlier this summer, I think it’s clear that I’ve made progress in various aspects of my game, yet the mere 13 rating points I’ve tacked on seem to speak against that. So worrying about the number and not my own play seems a little silly. But the question still remains, what will my goal be for the upcoming months? As of today, my goal is to become a National Master.

Of course, there is the inherent flaw that this specifically means breaking 2200. In order to work around this, I’m going to purposely avoid checking my rating, calculating my performance at the conclusion of a tournament, and looking at my opponent’s rating before the start of each round. My dad has agreed to notify me when I break 2200. I think this will be very difficult for me at first, but hopefully, it will mean that all that matters is the quality of chess that’s being played over the board.

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Photo from the US Junior Open. I actually got a couple mentions in Chess Life Online here!

So what specifically am I going to work on to become a National Master? Personally, I think it would be a grave error to not focus on improving my calculation skills. While positionally I have matched reasonably well with stronger opponents this summer, in several key moments my own short-sightedness has proven itself toxic to getting the satisfying result I desired. While improving my tactical skills will help me become more precise, improving my mental fortitude will help me achieve the state of mind I need going into each game. Keeping a clear mind throughout each tournament will help me remain relaxed and focused on playing my best. By eliminating outside distractions such as ratings or performance, I hope I can directly improve my concentration at the board.

So enough abstract – let’s talk chess! I’ve got a gruesome double-header coming up in Philadelphia, as I’ll be competing in the Open section of the World Open, followed by a tough Philadelphia International. I’m going to take some half point byes, but I believe it will still be the most number of rated games I have ever played in an eleven day period. I will be sharing my overall performance in my next post on  July 12th (two weeks). Meanwhile, I decided to dig up a past game I’ve played that I thought was worth sharing.

Senft – Steincamp (Kingstowne Chess Festival, 2013)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c5 7. d5 Bg4

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A Four Pawns Attack, which if I’m not mistaken was Sean’s (and still is) pet line against the King’s Indian Defence. I believe I briefly mentioned this game when I first launched Chess^Summit back in 2014, but without any analysis or diagrams – what a disservice to what might have been the best game I played in all of 2013!

Here I chose 7… Bg4, with the idea of trading on f3 and setting up a Benoni structure with queenside pressure. At the time, I didn’t really understand the nuances of move order, and had I fully recalled my then future coach’s video series, would have instead chosen 7… e6, keeping my options open for my bishop following the trade on d5. With the way my opponent handled the opening, this slight difference didn’t matter in the end. 8. Bd3 e6 9. O-O exd5 10. cxd5 Ne8

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A backwards knight move? Again, I think 10… Nbd7 makes a little more sense, but with the pin on f3, the position will transpose. This move serves a few functions. First, my g7 bishop now covers the e5 square. In these Benoni positions, it’s absolutely critical to not allow White to break open the position with an e4-e5 push. With the pin on f3 and a knight coming to d7, White cannot hope to immediately take advantage of my lack of development. Next, my knight on e8 will reroute itself to c7 to help support a …b7-b5 thrust. By bringing my knights to the queenside, my goal is to take advantage of some of White’s dark squared weaknesses such as the d4 square or the b2 pawn. 11. Be3 Nd7 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 a6 14. a4 Nc7 15. Qg3?!

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Up until this point, both sides have played rather coherently, each attaining their ideal set-up. White is nicely developed and possess a nice space advantage, while Black has counterplay coming with …b7-b5. With his last move, 15. Qg3, White has made a move that is rather reminiscent of sub-2000 rated play. The only reason for the queen to be on g3 would be to attack g6, but as you can see, f4-f5 isn’t realistic, as the e5 square become an outpost for my d7 knight. This means White now would need two tempi to push the h-pawn to h5 to execute this idea, but already it’s not clear what he’s achieved. With these fianchetto structures, generally, the g6 pawn is the strongest point in the formation. With White failing to improve his position, I continued with my plan. 15…Rb8 16. a5 b5 17. axb6 Rxb6

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With this trade on b6, the structure has changed. Rather than pushing a pawn storm down the queenside, I now have a half open b-file for my rook to target the b2 pawn. While the position is roughly even, Black holds more strategic trumps – the g7 bishop is menacingly cutting through the position, my queen can enter the game through b8, and White can’t push e4-e5, even with the help of his misplaced queen. While White can probably hold this position with best play, it’s not easy, and already we can see how White can regret his choice of 15. Qg3 just a few moves ago.  18. Ra2 Qb8 19. Qf2

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Admitting the mistake. This is a hard thing to do, even for much stronger players, but unfortunately this it just too passive given the nature of the position. I remember thinking that White could have been better off here playing 19. Rfa1 during the game, ditching the b2 pawn for the a6 pawn, but after 19…Rxb2, the c3 knight is hanging, giving me some nice discovered attack potential on a1 once the knight moves. With my more experienced eyes, I have a strong feeling that this bishop on e3 is misplaced, as it means a rook on e1 cannot support a future e-pawn push. One mentality when playing against the Benoni is to avoid opening the queenside structure, surrendering space for the sake of time elsewhere. Thanks to some of my research with National Master Franklin Chen prior to the US Junior Open, I’ve found that in similar main line Benoni positions (1 d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6), sometimes it’s best to omit a2-a4 and ask Black what his intentions are. With some deeper analysis, I’ve found that while 14. a4 was perfectly fine, perhaps the insertion of 16. a5 hurts White strategically more than it hinders Black’s expansion. 19…Rb3 20. Bxa6?

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White’s had some small inaccuracies up to this point, but simply trading the material weaknesses does not rid White of the positional weaknesses his position holds. This is probably one of the biggest distinctions between amateurs and experts, as positional considerations matter much more when assessing the position. With this trade on a6, White’s rook will become inactive while mine will have VIP access to the second rank. 20…Nxa6 21. Rxa6 Rxb2 22. Ne2 Qb5 -+

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White’s position is now beyond repair, and as a result, will now cost him an entire piece. I like to show this game to my students because I think it shows what happens if you memorize opening theory but don’t seek its strategic elements. Once White completed his development, he made slow moves in a dynamic position, and quickly found himself too passive when the position required him to attack. That’s not to say White played a terrible game, I think I had surprised him with this set-up, and after 17…Rxb6, it’s very difficult to provide answers in this position without prior research. Unfortunately for him, that meant reaching a lost position in five moves. 23. Rxd6 Rxe2 24. Qf3 Rxe3 0-1

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 19.17.16A cute finish for a game that had long since been over (…Bg7-d4 is coming if the queen recaptures). If I played a game like this now, I think I would label it as nothing special, but as an 1800 picking up my then career-best win, I remember this game being a huge confidence booster for me at the time. With proper opening play, strategy always prevails!

 

For today’s game, I decided to choose a three-year-old game to celebrate the beginning of what I hope will become a fun project here at Chess^Summit. One of my motivations to invite new authors to this site was to present you with some elements of chess that are lost in the near perfect play of grandmasters. To become a strong player, you must have a full working understanding of positional and strategic imbalances, and here on Chess^Summit, we hope to present you with new ideas through the lens of our own improving understandings of chess. While we won’t be showcasing every great moment of the careers of Karpov, Kasparov, or Carlsen, we will be sharing instructive (and hopefully proud) moments from our own tournaments – even if that means going back a little in time.

I hope you all enjoy the weeks to come here on Chess^Summit! These next two weeks should be a fun ride!

Starting the New Year: Sacrifices and Strategy

Happy New Year! To start the new year, I wanted to share my best game from the 2015 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championships last week. In what was a close match with Webster C, the University of Pittsburgh was able to keep it close, only falling 2.5-1.5. My board, luckily enough, was the decisive point for Pitt.

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My round 2 win on board 4 won the top upset prize for the round and recognition on the United States Chess Federation website!

My overall 4.5/6 (3 wins, 3 draws, no losses) was enough to gain back nearly all of the rating points I’d lost since Thanksgiving (12) and puts me on the right track going into the Boston Chess Congress this weekend, and the Liberty Bell Open the following week. Playing more Open sections like the National Chess Congress will be tough, but I’m really excited to see how far I’ve come since November.

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Round 1: University of Pittsburgh v Lindenwood B (4-0)

That being said, with tournaments each weekend for the next two weeks, I’ve decided I want to start the New Year with videos, and then begin releasing articles after the Liberty Bell Open. My goal is a video every Tuesday and Friday, a total of two a week, and then revert to the usual Tuesday-Friday-Sunday schedule we’re all used to. That being said, here’s the first chess^summit video of 2016!

Blast to the Past: The Transition from Scholastic to Adult Play

For today’s post, I wanted to discuss my transition from being a scholastic player to a regular tournament player. Back in 2007, I broke 1300, and I wasn’t getting a high enough level competition in the tournaments near me. At ten years old, the idea of playing with adults in a weekend tournament was daunting, so I gave it a try at a local club in a few game-a-week ladders. While I only had a handful of games at the Kaissa Chess Club, it definitely gave me some perspective on how chess was different at the next level. For today’s post, I wanted to show how playing adult chess my gameplay over the board.

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I won my first scholastic tournament in the first grade to break 1000 in 2004.

Before I share my games, let’s discuss what scholastic players gain from becoming regular tournament players:

1) Patience – With adult tournament play, the time controls can be twice as long as standard scholastic tournaments. For me, changing from G/40 to G/90 was especially challenging as I hadn’t really been forced to calculate extensive lines in games. Patience is one of the most important virtues in chess, and in my personal opinion cannot be learned through scholastic play.

2) Chess Etiquette – At scholastic tournaments, almost anything goes. Usually, rules aren’t as strictly enforced, and while poor sportsmanship is frowned upon, it’s not effectively punished.  In adult play, there is an expectation that you respect your opponent. This wasn’t really an issue for me, but I have seen younger players not understand the tournament rules (touch-move, etc) or understand proper chess etiquette (this includes stalling in a losing position, making distracting noises, etc).

3) Practical Experience – Once I got to 1100, most of my tournaments would feature four significantly lower rated opponents, and only one real contest. While the euphoria of winning was definitely enjoyable, I didn’t have opponents forcing me to look at new openings or tactical ideas. At such a young age, I think all the winning went to my head and I stopped studying for tournaments. In adult play, any result is possible in any game – and your opponents generally challenge you to find new ways to win. In other words, no more hanging pieces, simple checkmates, and no more basic tactics – the chess starts here.

4) Better Fundamentals – As you’ll see in the games I chose for this article, my understanding of the openings went to the next level. In this article, I will compare how I played the Closed Sicilian in 2007 to how I played the same opening in 2009. While I wasn’t playing grandmaster-level chess at 1300, the progression in my understanding of chess made it possible to reach the next level. Let’s have a look.

Steincamp – Arnold (Kaissa Chess Club Sept-Oct Ladder, 2007)

When I “graduated” from the Kaissa Chess Club, I distinctly remember beating everyone at least once with the exception of my opponent here, Lloyd Arnold, Sr. In this game I was just shy of 1200, while my opponent was just over 1600.
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. d3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7
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One of many plans of the Closed Sicilian. Usually, White will play Ng1-e2, Qd1-d2, castle kingside, and then push f2-f4, hoping for some sort of strategic advantage. The one oversight my opponent and I both had was the move …Nf6-g4. This is a great resource for Black to make White either give up the bishop or waste some tempi. Black found this opportunity a few moves later, making this resource the first real idea for Black against the Closed Sicilian that I had seen at the time. White should have played 6. h3 instead of playing an immediate 6.Be3.
7. Qd2 h5?!
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Definitely a novelty for me back in 2007, but I haven’t seen this idea for Black since. Because White’s plan is to play f2-f4, this move encourages me to play f4-f5 in the future, taking advantage of the fact that the g6 pawn is only protected once.
8. Nge2 Ng4!
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A standard idea for Black in these fianchetto structures. With no other alternatives, I must give up the pair of bishops to continue play.
9. O-O-O??
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This is the first move that shows my true lack of understanding of the Closed Sicilian. While in scholastic play I could get away with a kingside pawn storm, that doesn’t really work at this level. The Closed Sicilian often lends itself to race positions, where Black attacks on the queenside as White seeks to play on the kingside. Here I’ve put my king on the wrong side of the board, and already, the g7 bishop is eyeing the b2 square.
9…Nxe3 10. Qxe3 Nd4
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Black’s opening play has been far from perfect, but my opponent has shown that he at least understands the thematic ideas of the Closed Sicilian. After using the attacking idea of …Ng4, he follows up by placing a piece on d4, Black’s most traditional idea. Both of these ideas for Black were ideas that I had never seen effectively for Black in the past 4 years of scholastic play. Here I get them in my first real adult game!
11. f4 Qb6 12. Nd5? Nxe2+!
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Taking advantage of my last move and proving why queenside castling was a bad idea with this zwischenzug. Normally Black waits for  White to play c2-c3 before executing the trade, but here the g7 bishop and queen on b6 are both bearing down on b2, and Black is clearly better.
13. Qxe2 Qxb2+ 14. Kd2 O-O
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A safe move, but I wonder if Black could have the nerves to try 14… Qxa2! because 15. Nc7+ Kf8 16. Nxa8? is punished by 16… Qa5+ and checkmate is forced. 17. c3 Qxc3+ 18. Ke3 Bd4+ 19. Bg4#. This being said, White no longer has a great way to defend the king to the …Qa2-a5+ threat as without the e3 bishop, I no longer have any way of controlling the dark squares.
15. Nxe7+ Kh8 16. Nd5 Bg4 17. Bf3 Bxf3 18. Qxf3 Qxa2 19. g4
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At this point, I don’t think there’s much else to recommend for White. In a strategically lost position, I make an effort to try and turn things around.
19…c4 20. gxh5 c3+ 21. Ke1 Qxc2 22. hxg6 fxg6 23. Qh3+ Kg8 24. Qe6+ Kh7
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With no increment or second time control, I’m left to think that maybe my opponent was trying to mess with me psychologically. I don’t think that really works here since repeating is my best option.
25. Qh3+ Kg8 26. Qe6+ Kh7 27. Qh3+ Bh6 28. Rg1 Rae8
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Organizing Black’s forces. White is clearly lost as my kingside attack couldn’t add up to anything.
29. Qg3 Re6 30. Nc7 Rxe4+!
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Clearly my opponent was doing tactics to prepare for his games! What a blow! Onc the f8 rook lands on f4, checkmate is inevitable.
31. dxe4 Qxe4+ 0-1
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Resigning instead of allowing checkmate was something new for me when I progressed to the adult level, but here the resignation is definitely appropriate.

Within the next two years, my understanding of the Closed Sicilian had changed and a lot of that improvement can be traced back to this loss. Here’s a game I had two years later against a slightly higher rated opponent. I don’t remember many games that I played before 2010, but this win was one of them.

Steincamp – Berenstein (Taylor Fox Memorial III, 2009)

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bc4
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Already the first “improvement” from the first game. I still wanted to be aggressive against the Sicilian, so having the bishop on c4 fit me more stylistically at the time than the fianchetto set-ups. If I could go back in time and coach my 1300 self here, I would have preferred 3. Bb5, a much more direct move leading to Rossolimo like positions.
3…e5?
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A strategic error from Black, which goes to show that not all adult play is “perfect”. When White places the bishop on c4, Black generally prefers to put his e-pawn on e6 to blunt the ability of the light squared bishop.
4. d3 h6?
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This move, hoping to stop Bc1-g5 in the future is a definite inaccuracy as Black has neglected to develop his pieces.
5. f4!
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Already this move shows a much stronger understanding of the Closed Sicilian on my part. Seeing that Black’s structure is highly suspect, this move undermines White’s center while hoping to accelerate my own development.
5…d6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. O-O Be7 8. f5
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And why not?! A very thematic idea for White, planning a phalanx on the kingside. Black is cramped and doesn’t have a move like …g7-g6 to undermine f5 since, after a trade on g6, Black is unable to castle kingside.
8…Bd7 9. Qe1
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Yet another thematic move, hoping to bring in the queen to h4. This is another idea I learned while playing stronger opponents in adult tournaments.
9…g5
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Already a desperate measure, but in trying to defend, Black has made a structural weakness.
10. fxg6 fxg6 11. Qg3 g5
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Black’s hand has been kind of forced, but my next move is not the most accurate. I would have liked to see either 12. Nd5, removing the f6-knight so my rook can help target f7, and 12. Nh4! using the same idea as the game with my move 12. h4, but if Black doesn’t take, I have Nh4-f5 with great play.
12. h4 g4 13. Be3
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Not really knowing what to do, I simply developed a piece. If Black tries to solidify with …h6-h5, the g5 square becomes a great square for my knight. My opponent should have played 13… Nd4, but made my job easy.
13…gxf3?? 14. Qg6+ 1-0
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Checkmate on f7 is inevitable. A great game for me! I would say, with my current knowledge of chess, that this performance was way above the 1300 level, thanks to the adaptations I made from playing adults.

What a difference! After being outplayed every move in the first game, I got to teach my opponent a lesson with my new found understanding of the Closed Sicilian. Through learning Black’s thematic ideas, I was able to adjust my play accordingly and become even stronger – something that would have never happened if I didn’t switch to adult play. If you are a scholastic player thinking about making the transition, or a parent unsure if your child is ready to make the switch, I hope this article helps you make the best chess decision and face tougher competition.

This has held true for me since, as I have often “played up” a section to gain practical experience. While it may not seem as fun as winning every game, pushing yourself to play against the toughest competition is the most effective way to get better.

A Call from Home – Games from the MLWGS Green Dragons

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!

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In three years, the MLWGS Green Dragons won several State League Championships, the 2014 U1200 National High School Chess Championships, and placed 5th in the most recent U1600 National High School Chess Championships last April.

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.

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Trey Johnson (left) has been on fire all summer, gaining nearly 300 rating points since last May, while Vishnu Pulavarthi (center), after having taken the summer off, hopes to continue the success he had at the end of last school year.

Pulavarthi – Johnson (MLWGS Rated Games, 2015)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.Nf3

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Vishnu opts for the anti-Benoni Structure, planning to meet cxd4 with either Qxd4 or Nxd4 to reach a Maroczy structure. Such positions are usually considered extremely playable for White, so Black has to pose problems to get a good game.

4…d5

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A popular opening choice, but not one completely backed by the MegaDatabase and recent statistics. Most games in this line typically lend themselves to a White win or a draw, as the simplifications in the center usually don’t give Black much to work with dynamically. The second most common move is to take on d4, but I would like to suggest an alternative, 4… b6, hoping to reach a Reti structure for Black where development is simple. Black will fianchetto on both sides and enjoy a stable position.

5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 O-O 7.Bd3

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A sign of great maturity to not break the tension in the center, but the e2 square is the better square for the bishop, as the queen on d1 can enter the fight with ease. One idea White has is to take on c5 in the future, using the c4 pawn, c3 knight, and the queen to put pressure on d5. By misplacing the bishop on d3, White removes an idea from his tactical arsenal.

7…Nc6 8.Ne5

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Perhaps inspired from Catalan positions, as the idea is that if Black takes the knight, dxe5 will remove a defender of the d5 pawn. I think here it becomes apparent that the bishop on d3 is misplaced, as having the queen active would have allowed for a sharper line, 8. dxc5, where the natural 8… Bxc5 leaves d5 exposed. Black’s best move is 8… h6, where after 9. Bxf6 Bxf6, the d3 bishop stops White from winning Black’s central pawn.

8…cxd4

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8… Nb4 looks like a decent move, threatening to win the bishop pair, but this would just force the bishop on to a much better square, leaving Black with no clear plan. With this move, Black punishes White for not having castled, and stands better.

9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.exd4 Ba6

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A great move! The bishop weakens the structure of the queenside, and Trey plans to employ an idea from the QGD Cambridge Springs, Qa5 and Bb4! Another move also worthy of consideration was 10… Rb8, with the idea of taking on c4 and pushing c6-c5, further exposing the king.

11.b3 Bb4 12.Qc2 Qa5 13.Bd2

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Here White is resigned to passivity, but how to proceed? After Trey’s move, …Nf6-e4, simplifications to the endgame favor White since the king is already centralized. Unfortunately, the right motif here involves a sacrifice that requires precise calculation. See if you can find it!

13…Ne4??

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This move goes from completely winning to losing. Black had to find 13… e5!!, after which 14. dxe5 dxc4! and White’s king is completely exposed. If white tries to take on c4, the e5 pawn hangs to the queen with check, and taking on f6 with 15. exf6 loses to 15… cxd3 and White’s queen is trapped behind its own fortress. If Black chooses to castle instead of taking the e5 pawn, e5-e4 is simply crushing as White suffocates in his own lack of space.

14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Bxe4 Bxd2+ 16.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 17.Kxd2 Rad8

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Perhaps Trey saw up to here and thought he was better, but his bishop’s lack of squares and the fact he is down a pawn is enough for him to be worse. The winning plan is to play Kc3 and protect d4 so Black is stuck behind his c6 and e6 pawns. Black gets little activity and is bound to his c6 pawn.

18.Bxc6?

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A big mistake as White trades his strong point for Black’s biggest weakness. Black now gets an opportunity to double his rooks on the d-file and save the game. In the endgame, activity matters much more than material, and here Vishnu should have realized that the c6-pawn will always be weak, so this is not the opportune moment to grab it. 18. Kc3 would have been enough, followed by activating the rooks to the third rank via rook lift.

18…Rxd4+ 19.Kc3 Rfd8

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White now sees the power of Black’s activity. White should bring a rook to e1 and cover Black’s entry point on d2.

20.Bb5?

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White makes a mis-step here, trading his only active piece for Black’s worst piece. From c6, the bishop stops the a6 bishop from entering the action, but also stops Rd4-d2 because of the Bc6-d5 interference tactic. By trading bishops and doubling pawns, the queenside pawn majority will be slightly more difficult to convert.

20…Bxb5 21.cxb5 R4d5 22.a4 Rc8+ 23.Kb4 Kf8 24.Rac1 Rb8 25.Rc5 a5+?

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Black missed the opportunity to complicate the game, and in doing so loses the game. Trying to count on a cheap tactical shot, Black gives White a protected passed b-pawn, which is more than decisive. Much better would have been to play 25… Rd2 26. Rf1 g6 and if White tries to infiltrate with 27. Ka5, 27… Rb2 exposes White’s weaknesses (note that 27. Rc7 a6 28. Rc5 Ke7 also puts Black in a better position than in the game). White will have to surrender kingside pawns to activate the rook, giving Black reasonable chances to play for a win.

26.Kc4 Ke7?

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In endgames where you have fewer pawns, you generally don’t want to trade pieces, as with each trade, the extra pawns become more valuable. Here Black cements his fate by trying to bring out the king.

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

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White has a clear winning endgame, as Black can never stop the two passed pawns. White will bring the rook to the seventh, confining the black king to the back rank, and then push his pawns to win the game.

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Jeffrey Song (right) playing Grandmaster Sergey Erenburg (left) in a MLWGS simul in December 2014.

Song – Phillips (Kemps Landing Scholastic and Quads, 2015)

1.f4

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Being a fan of the Dutch, Jeffrey employs the Bird’s Opening as White. Considered unsound by top grandmasters, Jeffrey uses this opening to reach unfamiliar positions from move 1. While the Bird’s is not effective at the top level, for a G/60 game among ~1500 rated players, this is a good opening choice.

1…d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d3 g6 4.e4

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By choosing to employ this structure, Jeffrey will not use a Stonewall, but rather an opening that resembles the Closed Sicilian. But if this is the desired position, then is makes much more sense to play 3. Nc3 g6 4. e4 because now White can meet Black’s Nb8-c6 with Bf1-b5, getting a true Grand Prix set-up. Here the bishop is not ideally placed, and should it be fianchettoed on g2, Black can play c7-c6 and e5 later to reach a less flexible position for White.

4…Nc6 5.Be2 Bg7 6.O-O O-O 7.Qe1

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White tries to go in for the attack here, but his pieces aren’t primed to do so. White’s plan is if Black pushes e7-e5, he will counter with f4-f5, shutting down the position with a massive attack on the kingside to follow. Unfortunately, with Black’s decision to play Nb8-c6 instead of d7, he loses the ability to play c5 and control the d4 square.

7…Bd7?!

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The bishop doesn’t really serve a purpose here on d7, and is much better served on g4. While this move wastes a tempo for Black, its hard to say what the long term plan should have been. My best guess is that since the position resembles a “flipped” Queen’s Indian, Bc8-g4 followed by e7-e6 can’t be too bad, as Black can aim for a d6-d5 push at the right moment, or engineer a double-edged f7-f5 break. Either way, without a white pawn on d4, this game is going to be slow paced compared to a King’s Indian if handled correctly.

8.Qh4 Bg4 9.c3 Qd7

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Connecting the rooks, but not truly changing the position. …e7-e6 would have been more effective, with the idea of moving the f6-knight and offering the queen trade. A sample line would go like 9… e6 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Nd7 12. Qg3 f5 and Black has a game, if 12. Ng5 is played to threaten checkmate, 12… h6 13. Nf3 Qxh4 14. Nxh4 Kh7, with the same idea of pushing for f5. Black has to solidify quickly to make up for lost time.

10.h3 Bxf3 11.Rxf3 e6 12.g4 b5

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A well intended positional move as Black’s goal is to attack the hook on c3. Unfortunately, there isn’t much venom here as White’s pawn storm on the kingside is much more critical. I’ve been reading “100 Chess Master Trade Secrets” by Andrew Soltis lately, and here I would like to apply his 6th ‘priyome’ (concept) to this position. Here Black faces the problem that if he does nothing, White will use his bishop pair and pawns to annihilate the kingside and win the game. Black doesn’t really have counter-attacking chances in this position as we see b7-b5 (which, by the way is another priyome, just much less effective here) doesn’t change the nature of the position. One option black does have though, is to play the move 12… d5. If White is compliant and plays 13. e5, a pawn thrust like f4-f5 becomes much more difficult to execute (in this position, we see that when the knight retreats, it would have been much more convenient to have the queen on d8 as the queen trade would be offered). If White chooses to be aggressive and play an immediate 13. f5, 13… dxe4 wins a pawn and busts open the center. Soltis’ 6th priyome states that when the opponent is pushing pawns so that he has pawns on e4, f4, and g4 (or e5, f5 and g5 if its the Black player), the first option to consider is if …d5 is playable, as it locks up the position.

13.Be3 Qe7

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Realizing that the queen needed to be on the same diagonal as the queen, Black plays this move at the cost of weakening his b5 pawn. This move isn’t bad if Black can hold on to the b-pawn, and can immediately move the f6 knight to offer the queen trade, and play f7-f5. While Black has lost a lot of time, the slow nature of the position has stopped him from falling completely off the grid. b5-b4 isn’t that helpful, because taking the pawn on c3 to create a weakness develops the knight on b1.

14.Nd2 a5 15.f5!

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Good technique! Even though Qh4 was premature, White waited to get the rest of his pieces out to time this push at the right moment. Black needed to be able to play …f7-f5 to hope for equality, and without this option now stands worse in the position. While this moves seems to be weakening the e5 square, White can always play d3-d4 later and reclaim it.

15…exf5 16.gxf5 Ne5 17.Rg3 Qd8 18.Bg5 c5

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Probably the best practical chance, but now Black can see the penalty for moving the bishop twice and the queen three times in the opening. While White’s pawn storm was aggressive, the game really came down to better piece play and maneuvering.

19.Nf3 Ned7 20.d4 cxd4 21.Bxb5?!

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After playing a strong game of chess, White begins to lost the thread of the game. There really wasn’t a need to take the b5 pawn when cxd4 followed by e4-e5 was simple enough. Black gets a tempo back with this move … Qb6, getting out of the pin and preparing to expose the king.

21…Qb6 22.Nxd4 Nh5 23.fxg6??

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White loses all of the advantage, and is actually losing here! If Black plays 23… fxg6, the f8 rook springs to life and the White king is truly exposed. With White’s pieces all over the board from having gone after the b5 pawn, it becomes much more difficult to regroup and protect the kingside.

23…Bxd4+ 24.cxd4 Qxd4+?

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Going from an unclear or slightly better position to a completely losing one. After White’s next move, its Black that has the exposed king, and the knight on h5 will fall as well.

25.Be3 1-0

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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 chess.summit@gmail.com, and if you’re lucky, I’ll choose your game to be featured next week.

Catching Up – A Season in a Post

Hi everyone, I’m back with my first real post in ages!

As some of you already know, I’m repurposing this blog from breaking 2000 (which I successfully completed last November) to documenting my journey to the 2016 US Junior Open, and my goal to win the event. Obviously I’ve played a lot of chess since my last post, so here’s what I’ve been up to in the last couple months.

Part 1 – Summer Struggles

The last tournament I posted about was my performance in the Cherry Blossom Classic, in which I pulled a big first round upset by beating Jennifer Yu, a gold medal winner of the 2014 World Youth Chess Championships. After what had been a rather euphoric tournament for me things got harder before they got easier.

My next tournament was the World Open in Northern Virginia. Playing in the U2200 section, I didn’t exactly have many expectations, but I definitely wanted to see a continuation of progress in my level of play. My first round game proved to be one of the most testing, as I played an ambitious attacker. While the end result was a draw, the game was very dynamic and over the course of five hours went back and forth from the opening to the endgame.

Steincamp – Zinski (World Open, 2015)

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nc6 3.Bg2 Bc5 4.Nc3 a6 5.Nf3 d6 6.d3 Nge7 7.O-O h5 8.h4

One thing to keep in mind with the h7-h5 pushes is that Black makes life difficult for himself for a few reasons. 1) If he were to try f7-f5, the g5 square becomes a great outpost for my knight. 2) moving the g-pawn will significantly weaken the f6 square. 3) Black hasn’t fully resolved his king’s safety.

8…Bg4 9.Nd5

When your opponent plays on the wings, play in the center!

9…Qd7 10.a3 Nf5 11.e3 Nd8 12.b4 Ba7 13.Qb3 Ne6 14.Bb2 c6 15.Nc3 Ke7??

For some unknown reason, I just knew my opponent would make this mistake. I now must try to break the center of the board.

16.c5 Bxf3 17.cxd6+ Nxd6 18.Bxf3 g5 19.Ne4 f6 20.d4

The only way to hold the advantage. I have to be very accurate with how I play. One mistake and the game could be lost!

20…exd4 21.exd4 Nxe4 22.Bxe4 gxh4

Here White misses a crushing resource with 23. Rad1! With the same idea as 23.Bf5, but this time has the added threat of d4-d5, which would punish Black for such an unorthodox way of moving his king!

23.Bf5 Kf7 24.Rae1 Rae8 25.Re3 Qd5 26.Qxd5 cxd5 27.Rfe1 Ng7 28.Rxe8 Rxe8 29.Rxe8 Nxe8 30.gxh4 Nd6 31.Bd3 Nb5 32.Kg2 Bxd4 33.a4 Bxb2 34.axb5 axb5 35.Bxb5 Bc3 36.Be2 Bxb4 37.Bxh5+ Ke6 38.Kf3 Ke5 39.Be8 Bf8 40.Ke3 d4+ 41.Kd3 f5 42.Bd7 Bg7 43.Be8 Kf4 44.Bh5 Bf6 45.f3

I was getting a little complacent as well as tired in this opposite colored bishop ending. Here my opponent missed the fantastic 45… Ke5! putting me Zugzwang as there is noway to hold the pawn on h4!

45…Kg3 46.Bg6 f4 47.Ke4 b5 48.h5 b4 49.Bf7 Bg7 50.Bd5 Bf6 51.h6 Bh8 52.h7 Kf2 53.Bc4 Ke1 54.Kd3 Kd1 55.Bd5 Kc1 56.Kc4??

After trying to hold a draw for the last hour and a half, I should have lost the game here with the simple push 56… b3! now after 57. Kxb3 d3, I can’t use the dark squares and can’t stop the successful promotion of the pawn!

56…Kd2 57.Kxb4 Ke3 58.Kc4 d3 59.Be4 d2 60.Bc2 Ke2 61.Ba4 Ke3 62.Bd1 Bg7 63.Ba4 Ke2 64.Bc2 Kxf3 65.Kd3 Kg2 66.Kxd2 f3 67.Be4 1/2-1/2 I got lucky in the endgame, but the opening went really well.

I actually wound up losing my second round, which was a first for me at the World Open (last year I had two wins and seven draws!), so I had to regroup. I won an uninspiring game in Round 3, but woke up the next morning and won a great game in the King’s Indian with Black.

Higgins – Steincamp (World Open, 2015)

Faced with a friend of mine in Round 5 that night, we took a quick draw to head into the last four rounds. With a score of 3/5, I was really liking my chances of leaving with a great result. The next morning, I played as an underdog, and after leaving the opening position with an equal position, my opponent hyper-extended and gifted me the point.

One element you don’t hear much of at the World Open is pure exhaustion. After round 6, I had spent 20 hours at the board. Even though I improved to 4/6 with a Round 6 win, the six hour game was draining, and was a big reason I couldn’t match my opponent’s high level of play. The final two rounds had the same story as well. My opponents and I were both fatigued, and caught in unfamiliar opening territory, I made big tactical errors in each to end the tournament on a three game skid.

While my first six rounds had given me a promising start, it was hard to process the bitter ending to the World Open. I hadn’t lost three games in a row in tournament play since December of 2012, and had me worried perhaps my Cherry Blossom Classic was only a blip and I still had a long ways to go before reaching the next level.

My next rated game was in my final game in the DC Chess League where I reached an interesting position on move 15:

Cousins–Steincamp (2015 Summer DC Chess League)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 a6 6.Be3 c6 7.Qd2 b5 8.Bh6 Bxh6 9.Qxh6

White’s queen is menacing, but since I haven’t castled, it can’t do any harm to my position.

9…Qb6 10.e5 dxe5 11.dxe5 Nfd7 12.O-O-O Nxe5 13.Re1

An important decision, if White had instead tried 13.Qg7 Qe3+ 14.Rd2 Rf8 15.Nd1 Qe1, my opponent’s lack of development would really make it hard for him to continue.

13. … Qf2 14.Qe3 Qxe3+ 15.Rxe3 Nxc4??

A critical mistake as Black gains nothing for the second pawn. Now it is White who is ahead in development, and it is Black that has to play defense. Better would have been 15… Nbd7 16. Nh3 f6 and White as no way to really prove compensation for the one pawn.

16.Bxc4 bxc4 17.Nge2 Ra7

Here I realized how much trouble I was in, I think the move I played was the only way to play for anything:

17… Nd7 18.Re4 Nb6 19.Rd1

17… c5 18.Ne4 Nc6 19.N2c3 O-O 20.Nxc5

17… e6 18.Rd1 O-O 19.Re4

17… Be6 18.Nf4

18.Re4 O-O 19.Rxc4 Be6 20.Rc5 Nd7

Its important to not get too carried away as White still has trumps 20… Rd8 21.Nf4 Rd6 22.Re1 Bf5 23.g4 +=

This line is enough to show that Black will have to give up a second pawn, I played Nd7 to force the issue with tempo.

21.Rxc6 Ne5 22.Rb6 Rc8 23.Kb1 Nc4 24.Rb4 Rd7 25.Kc1 Ne5 26.Rd4 Rxd4 27.Nxd4 Bxa2 28.Kc2 Bc4 29.Re1 Nc6 30.Nxc6 Rxc6 1/2-1/2 With having to rush the last five moves to make time control, a draw was a good enough result. What did I learn from this game? Don’t be greedy! I had my opponent completely outplayed after 13… Qf2, only to let him back in later for a pawn.

The draw was disappointing, but learning from this opening actually paid off at the Washington International a month later. My next tournament was the Potomac Open, where, just like my DC Chess League match, I played really well in the openings, only to play the rest of each game mediocre at best. Finishing with a score of 1.5/5 (three draws and two losses), my winless streak extended to nine consecutive games, and with a week before the Washington International, I was honestly having a hard time finding out what had gone wrong.

Since the World Open, I had been working on my fatigue problem by exercising regularly. I had been studying chess every day, and since the spring, I had brought my tactics trainer rating from 2200 to 2400. I was going over openings and watching live commentary, so my recent spell of results had been puzzling. At the conclusion of the Potomac Open, I took a drastic measure and stopped studying completely. I jogged for 45 minutes everyday that week and focused on eating right and getting plenty of sleep. I wasn’t necessarily confident, I just wasn’t stressed – which I think is equally as important.

Part 2 – Redefining My Play

Looking back, the Washington International really reshaped my outlook on chess and my mentality over the board. I didn’t exactly have preparation to fall back on, so I used positional indicators to help me make decisions throughout each of the seven games.

Entering my first game, I remember feeling a surge of confidence as I waited for my opponent to come to the board.  While my opponent was much lower rated and lacked the skill set to really challenge me, I really liked the way I played, and found it to be quite instructive for some of my peers:

This was an important game, as my nine-game winless run came to an end, and set me off with a running start. The next game would not prove as easy, as I got to play the top seed in my section, a 2200 rated player from Florida.

Xanthos–Steincamp (Washington International, 2015)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 a6 6.Be3 c6 7.Qd2 b5 8.Bh6 Bxh6 9.Qxh6

Already, a little deja vu!

9…Qb6 10.Qd2 e5 11.c5 dxc5 12.dxe5 Nfd7 13.Qd6 c4

White’s dynamic play has been scary, but I have a concrete static advantage. With this move I threaten both Qe3+ and the move Nd7-c5. The c5 square is a great outpost for my knight, and justifies the doubled pawns on the c-file.

14.e6 Qe3+ 15.Nge2 Nc5 16.exf7+ Kxf7 17.Qf4+ Qxf4 18.Nxf4 g5 19.Nh5 Rd8

After forcing my opponent’s best pieces off the board, I have a clear developmental advantage, and White is stuck with a terrible light-squared bishop.

20.g4 Be6 21.h4 h6 22.Ng3 Nbd7 23.Nf5? Bxf5

I don’t think my opponent expected this move, but this trade helps me significantly. In his slow kingside expansion, White has serious dark square weaknesses.

24.gxf5 Ne5 25.Ke2 b4 26.Nd1 g4 27.f4 Nf3 28.Ke3 Nxe4!!

The knight is poisoned due to …Rd8-e8# threats! White is completely lost!

29.Bxc4+ Kf6 30.Be2 Ng3 31.Bxf3 Nxf5+ 32.Kf2 gxf3 33.Kxf3 Rd3+ 34.Kf2 Rd2+ 35.Ke1 Rad8 36.Rh3 Rg2 37.a3 Ng3

A general concept from Grandmaster Iossif Dorfman – When handled correctly, a static advantage will become a material advantage. Here White’s lack of mobility proves costly.

38.Rxg3 Rxg3 39.axb4 Rg1+ 40.Ke2 Re8+ 41.Kd2 Ree1 42.Rc1 Rxd1+!

This endgame was about to get tricky, so I took my only opportunity here to get a clear cut win – Simplification!

43.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 44.Kxd1 Kf5 45.Kd2 Kxf4 46.Kd3 Kg4 47.Kc4 Kxh4 48.Kc5 Kg5 49.Kxc6 h5 50.Kb6 h4 51.Kxa6 h3 52.b5 h2 53.b6 h1=Q 54.b7 Qc6+ 55.Ka7 Qc7 56.b4 Kf6 57.Ka8 Qc6 58.b5 Qf3

The last part of the puzzle. My queen will go to a3, where it will have access to d6 and f8, critical square I need to win this game. I have a couple ways to win. Force my opponent to play Kb8 and use the tempi to bring over my king, or play to put my queen on b8 and win the pawns.

59.Ka7 Qa3+ 60.Kb6 Qd6+ 61.Ka7 Qc7 62.b6 Qd7 63.Ka8 Qa4+ 64.Kb8 Ke7 65.Kc7 Qf4+ 66.Kc8 Qf8+ 67.Kc7 Qd8+ 0-1 As I had eluded to earlier, my prior DC Chess League game over the summer gave me a big theoretical advantage over my opponent which helped me grind out my second ever win against a 2200 rated player.

While I got off to a good start in Round 3, my opponent found defenses, and I wasn’t prepared for the counterstrike, ultimately costing me in what would be my only loss in the tournament. I evened the score for the day with another win over a lower rated player that night.

My Round 5 game was my most memorable challenge. Playing a rival from my scholastic days, I had one last opportunity to sneak in a win against him before moving to Pittsburgh the following week. Faced with 1… b6, I put together an unorthodox response and quickly seized the initiative. My coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, even came out with a video on the game, documenting the way my opening put my opponent in a bind from the start (you can watch it on chesslecture.com, here). While both my opponent and I missed 32…Qd1!=, I left really happy with my performance as the win pulled me to 4/5.

Steincamp – Shih (Washington International, 2015)

You can watch the video linked above for comments from a Grandmaster, but I’ve left the analysis for the critical moment of the game.

1.c4 b6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 Bb7 4.Nge2 Bb4 5.f3 Bxc3 6.dxc3 d6 7.Qc2 Nd7 8.Be3 e5 9.O-O-O Qe7 10.g4 g5 11.Ng3 Qf6 12.Nf5 Ne7 13.Qd2 h6 14.h4 Nxf5 15.hxg5 hxg5 16.Bxg5 Qg7 17.Rxh8+ Qxh8 18.gxf5 f6 19.Be3 O-O-O 20.b4 Ba6 21.c5 Bxf1 22.cxb6 axb6 23.Rxf1 Qh3 24.Qe2 Kb7 25.Kb2 Rg8 26.Rf2 Qh7 27.Qc4 Rg7 28.Qd5+ Kc8 29.a4 Qh1 30.a5 Rg2 31.Qa8+ Nb8 32.a6?? Rxf2+ 33.Bxf2

The critical moment. Black missed 32… Qd1!!= and the game is drawn. After 33. a7 Qd2+ 34. Kb3 Qd1+ 35. Kc5, Black has the incredible resource 35… d5+ and now White cannot escape the net.

33…Qf1 34.a7 Qe2+ 35.Ka3 Qa6+ 36.Kb3 Qb7 37.axb8=Q+ Qxb8 38.Qxb8+ Kxb8 39.Kc4 Kc8 40.Kd5 Kd7 41.b5 Ke7 42.Kc6 Kd8 43.Be3 Kc8 44.Bh6 Kd8 45.Bg7 1-0

I drew my last two games with relative comfort, taking a third place finish and 43 rating points for what would be my last tournament in the area before I moved to Pittsburgh.

Part 3 – The Move to Pittsburgh

Yeah, there’s still more – and I hope you all are starting to forgive me for not posting much this summer.

I moved in mid-August to the University of Pittsburgh to study Economics and Statistics, and I honestly had no idea what that would do to my chess.

Over the summer I had won an article contest on chess24 using my piece on Sam Shankland, and I was really excited to see my prize:

IMG_3493
The newest offline engine, Isaac! Named after me, this computer has a rating of only 1300! I think you all can beat him!

Perhaps having an engine named after me was a sign of good things to come.

Two weeks ago I played in the Pennsylvania G/60 State Chess Championships and finished 5th, finally (FINALLY) getting a top five state finish for the first time of my career. While G/60 isn’t my favorite time control, my 2.5/4 score gained me a few rating points, and this punishing game to share:

Steincamp – Wang (Pennsylvania G/60 State Chess Championships, 2015)

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 O-O 5.d3 d6 6.e4 Nbd7 7.Nge2 e5 8.O-O a5 9.h3 Nc5 10.Be3 Re8

Lower time controls against lower rated opponents has never been my strength, but this move was the first red flag since now f7-f5 ideas lack a lot of sting.
Lower time controls against lower rated opponents has never been my strength, but this move was the first red flag since now f7-f5 ideas lack a lot of sting.

11.Qd2 Ne6

I might already be better. Black wasted time to set up the c5 outpost and then put the knight on the much weaker square.

12.f4 exf4 13.gxf4 Qe7

With this move, the game started to feel more like a G/15 online game. If Black were serious, he would have tried Nh5 and Qh4. But even there the play isn’t very convincing.
With this move, the game started to feel more like a G/15 online game. If Black were serious, he would have tried Nh5 and Qh4. But even there the play isn’t very convincing.

14.Ng3

Eliminating any future Nh5 ideas. Now Black has to get creative to find moves.
Eliminating any future Nh5 ideas. Now Black has to get creative to find moves.

14…Nd7 15.f5 Nef8 16.Nd5 Qd8 17.Bg5 f6 18.Be3 g5 19.h4 c6 20.Nc3 h6 21.hxg5 hxg5 22.d4

Where is Black's play. With the center in my control, I have a firm grasp of the position with lots of flexibility.
Where is Black’s play. With the center in my control, I have a firm grasp of the position with lots of flexibility.

22…Re7 23.Kf2 Nh7 24.Rh1 Ndf8 25.Bf3

Planning Bh5 and Bg6 at the right moment.
Planning Bh5 and Bg6 at the right moment.

25…Bd7 26.Rh3 Be8 27.Rah1 Bf7 28.d5

Not sure if this was right. I almost went for b3, but I really didn’t want to deal with any sac exchange funny business on a4 in this time control. I’m pretty sure I’m better there, but this should be crushing. If he takes, I retake with knight (followed by queen) and after Bd4, Black will struggle to find play. I was just trying to make a second weakness which I received with my opponents move as I got the b5 square as an outpost for my knight.

28…c5 29.Nb5 Be8 30.Nc3 Rc8 31.Kg1 Rcc7 32.Qh2

Yes h7 needs protecting, but the queen says hello from h2 to the pawn on d6. The knight is coming to b5 soon.

32…Bh8 33.Bh5 Bxh5 34.Rxh5 Rg7 35.Nb5 Rce7 36.Bd2 Nd7 37.Rh6 Ne5 38.Qe2 g4 39.Bf4 Nf3+ 40.Kg2 Rd7 41.Nh5 Rgf7 42.Rg6+ Kf8 43.Bh6+ Ke7 44.Nf4 Nhg5 45.Ne6 Qe8 46.Bxg5?

My only slip-up. 46. Nxg5 is much more efficient as 46... Nxg5 47. Bxg5 fxg5 48. Re6+. My line 46. Bxg5? allows for 46... fxg5, and now I have to sacrifice my knight to win the queen.
My only slip-up. 46. Nxg5 is much more efficient as 46… Nxg5 47. Bxg5 fxg5 48. Re6+. My line 46. Bxg5? allows for 46… fxg5, and now I have to sacrifice my knight to win the queen.

46…Nxg5 47.Nxg5 fxg5 48.Re6+ 1-0

Simply crushing. The following week I played in my first match for the University of Pittsburgh against Carnegie Mellon University’s “B” team (all four boards over 1950!), and I won my game against an expert in 20 moves. Want to see that game? Make sure to check out my Youtube Channel on Sunday for a full recap!

And well now I’m here. With a goal to win the 2016 US Junior Open in New Orleans, I think that this should be a fun year. Make sure to check out my GoFundme page here to help me reach my goals for this year!

Bringing Back the Blog

Hi everyone!

I have to be honest, I’ve had no idea how to use this blog for the last 9 months. When I first opened this website, my intention was to document my goal to break 2000 and my general development in chess. Once I broke 2000 last November, I really had a hard time repurposing this blog to document my growth as a player.

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However, that changed last week when I decided that my goal for this year is to win the 2016 US Junior Open in June. Since setting my eyes on finishing first, I’ve decided to revive this blog, with two regular posts a week, as well as one new video every week on my Youtube Channel (you can also support me through my GoFundMe campaign here).

I’ll come out with my first major post Friday with games and analysis!