Today’s video features an important game I played yesterday in the Pittsburgh Chess League. My opponent missed one opportunity to get play, but after that, all bets were off as I was left pressing in the final position.
This was a crucial fixture for the University of Pittsburgh, as the winner of the match would clinch the league title. In the end, our team won, pulling a 3-1 victory over the Carnegie Mellon alumni team.
I haven’t done a Free Game Analysis post in a while, so I was extremely pleased to get two game submissions this week from tournaments in both Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. If you too would like to have your game analyzed for free by me, send your game PGNs to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Our first game is from Joe P’s last round of last week’s Pittsburgh Open. Joe scored 3.5/5 in the U1800 section, and saw a rating boost of 71 points to break 1600! Congrats Joe!
So what should Black do instead? The main lines in this position are 6…0-0 and 6… c6 with the intention of keeping a closed position, and standard QGD play. While there’s nothing objectively wrong with this, Black doesn’t score very well at the top level.
With this quick look in ChessBase’s free online Mega Database, Black only has two decisive games in the position after 6… 0-0 7. Rc1. If you look at some of the names, strong players like Sargissian, Naiditsch, and Kryvoruchko all lost to lower rated players in this line. Black’s relative passivity in this line makes life tough for Black, which is why I’m going to recommend the much more active set-up in the Ragozin. Putting the bishop on b4 instead of e7 gives Black alot more flexibility and space, and while there is plenty of theory, it’s clear that Black can play for a win in the opening.
My thoughts on the game? Aside from the opening, Black was never really in trouble of losing the game, but at times played too passively. White should have secured the half point, but Black played the better game. Congrats Joe on the strong finish and the big rating gain!
On to our next game, from Jeffrey, a chess^summit fan and my former teammate from my MLWGS days. Jeffrey’s currently at the Virginia Open, and after a rocky start, managed to pick up a round 2 win to reach 1.5/2. Let’s see how it went!
I think both 12. fxe5 and 12. f5 are possible here, but upon further evaluation, White’s choice doesn’t really matter since Black’s plan should be …Nf6-h5 with the idea of putting pressure on f4. Black’s opening play has been kind of poor, but White’s play hasn’t exaclty been punishing. I analyzed the move order with an engine and came to a few conclusions.
First, Nf3-h4 was a waste of time in this position, not only because it should have failed tactically, but it loses the value of having played 1. f4. What do I mean? Well if you think about it, White can reach a similar position in a King’s Indian Attack set-up:
Next, 9. h3 is what gives Black the …Nh5 resource since g3 is weakened. Usually this move is played to allow for Bc1-e3, taking away the g4 square from the knight, but seeing as Jeffrey didn’t play this move, 9. a4! would have been much more prudent.
It’s not that we are expecting Black to play the poor 9…Nb6? its just that this move restricts Black’s ability to expand with …b7-b5 on the queenside. Now it’s up to Black to come up with ideas. 9… a5 is a natural move for Black to secure the c5 outpost, but a knight on c5 won’t help Black with the pawn on d3. White can just play Kh1 followed by f4-f5. Also reasonable is b2-b3 and Bc1-a3 putting pressure on d6 once the f4-e5 tension is resolved (I will admit this is less agressive).
Anyways, I thought it was interesting that Black still had a tenable position after violating several opening principles.
This game was a lot more tactical than the first, but also proved as another exemplar as to why these …Nb6 ideas don’t work. Sure, Black got away with it in the first game, but that was White’s choice, not Black’s genius. As a coach, I’ve noticed that this manuever, though incorrect, has been played alot by lower rated players. When I started working with one of my current students, he played a line of the King’s Indian like this:
Of the three cases we’ve discussed today, this is the worst …Nb6, and while my student knows much better now, I think it shows that even at the 1400 level, this move still shows up.
If we’ve learned anything today, it’s that this amateur-ish …Nb6 idea is not only a weak move, but its a bad plan! It’s passive, and it slows the natural expansion of the queenside for Black. In more active openings like the King’s Indian, this move is even more unforgiveable since Black falls behind too many tempo in the sharp position.
Well, I hope you’ve made it this far – this is my longest free game analysis post yet. Make sure to send your games into email@example.com to have your game analyzed by me in my next post!
Well – I wish I could say that a week of intensive study and deep preparation paid off, but I simply had a rough outing at the Pittsburgh Open this past weekend. Only scoring 1/4 in the top section, the weekend’s performance showed me that the road to becoming a master and playing for the US Junior Open is a lot longer than I had anticipated.
While there were a lot of negatives for me in this event, I did want to share my second round match-up.
My only point of the weekend, but hopefully the short-term disappointment will lead to long-term success. I have a match for the Universtiy of Pittsburgh in two weeks, and I don’t intend to let that one go.
With less than 24 hours before my first round of the Pittsburgh Open kicks off, I thought I’d share another game of mine from the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Open. While I wasn’t happy with my finish in that event, it’s certainly propelled me to work harder this week in each phase of the game. I’m not sure what that means for this weekend in what should be a tough open section of Continental Chess’ Pittsburgh Open, but confidence is never a bad thing to have.
I like the game I’m about to share, because to an extent, it balances practicality with precise play, while at the same time showing what happens when your opponent jumps ship on opening principles. My opponent is a young, ambitious player who is closing in on 1700, let’s see how he holds up.
Steincamp – Cao (71st Annual Pittsburgh Metropolitan Open, 2016)
My opponent made me play on till checkmate, but the win is simple.
My opponent really only made two mistakes this game:
1) He didn’t stop my d-pawn push, which allowed me to gain too much time and space.
2) Giving me the protected passed pawn on d5 not only lost a tempo but caused long-term problems throughout the game. Because of the time he lost, it allowed me to march my f-pawn and then squeeze for space.
But the two principle abandoning gaffes were enough to lose this one. My opponent is a relatively strong player for his age, but even this game shows the importance of two basic opening principles: controlling the center and not moving the same piece twice.
This past weekend I played in a small, three round tournament in Pittsburgh to prepare for the Pittsburgh Open in two weeks. Unfortunately (for me at least), the U1800 and open sections got merged, so I only had one opportunity to play someone over 2000, in a game that went south really quickly. My two wins though were against much lower rated opponents, and highlight many problems for players rated 1000-1600. For today’s post, I wanted to share my round 2 win over a 1300 rated player.
Before the blunder though, here is what I had anticipated:
So what’s the lesson? If you are going to play a strategic opening, you must understand the concepts to play it in tournaments. Here my opponent knew a general set-up for the Closed Sicilian, but failed to demonstrate any thematic knowledge of the opening.
To follow up on last Tuesday’s video, I put together an analysis on the Be3 Najdorf, with improvements for Black. For those of you that missed the video, make sure to check out White’s refutation of my set-up:
For those of you who saw it, here are some of the highlights:
I could have tried to insert …Nb6 earlier, with the idea of reaching c4, but even in those lines, my light squared bishop is slightly misplaced. Why did I go for this set-up? Let’s take a field trip back to the third video I ever posted to chess^summit, back in October 2014:
In that game, the set-up was justified in that game because White not only wasted several tempi but also with a bishop on e2, the Qf2 idea was never possible. That game was actually one of the last times I employed the Najdorf, so I never really worried about going beyond the analysis I had at that time.
So that brings us back to the tabiya position. As I mentioned before, Black’s bishop is slightly misplaced on b7, so here 8…Be6 is the much more logical step going forward. Note how I can still play for …d7-d5 if the opportunity presents itself, but I also get more space on the queenside, while eying the b3 knight for a potential trade. With the bishop on b7, White can play a2-a3 to stop the b-pawn push without worrying about opening the c-file.
One thing you should note about this opening is that unlike my other analysis posts, the calculation must be much more concrete. The Najdorf is not for the faint-hearted, and will punish the tactically weak!
What does this game tell us about the Be3 lines of the Najdorf? Well, it’s extremely tactical, and Black can’t play submissively if he has any aspirations of winning. Another aspect I will mention is that to play the Najdorf takes a lot of preparation – for each side; working with computers, reading manuscripts, analysis far deeper than the post I have provided you with today.
I stopped playing the Najdorf shortly after breaking 1900, because I found that it simply put too much emphasis on opening knowledge when playing 2000+ rated opponents, and the Bg5 lines alone gave me enough of a headache to stop. If you’re looking for a fun, easy opening to learn, this definitely isn’t it.
It’s opening experimentation week, and this week the Najdorf is on deck! Check out my live video where I try to play against the London Attack, but my opponent finds the refutation against my whole set-up!
Make sure to check back for Friday’s analytical post on the Be3 variations of the Najdorf!
For those of you who may know me well, one tournament that has always been just out of my reach is the Virginia Scholastic State Championships. Since the third grade, I’ve always been competitive in my section, with five top ten finishes to show for it. Though my scholastic days have been over for a long time, I’m still chasing at least one state championship title.
This past weekend, I had my first real opportunity to become a state champion, as I was seated at board 1 going into the final round of the G/75 Pennsylvania State Chess Championships against defending champion Mark Eidemiller. I had scored 2.5/3, with two somewhat quiet wins, and a draw against a 2200 rated opponent. I shared my first round win last Tuesday:
My opponent had won each of his three games in a convincing manner, so I had to win to get the championship honors. Let’s see how it went:
Steincamp–Eidemiller (G/75 Pennsylvania State Championships, 2016)
Unfortunately, with this misstep, the computer evaluation dropped from +5.3 to +0.3, which was more than enough for my opponent to hold the draw. So what did we learn from this game?
The game isn’t over till the players shake hands.
I would be State Champion if I had taken 26…Bd3 more seriously and calculated out the whole line or just found the trade on d8. I’m perfectly capable of calculating both lines, but in that precise moment I was too excited to think straight, which leads me to my next point.
Don’t play quickly.
I had a couple regrets this game, and ultimately, there is no going back. Even if I was excited, a trip to the water fountain or a walk around the tournament hall could alone have saved the game and been the difference.
There was no need for me to get excited because I hadn’t done anything yet! Even though the opening went well in my favor, that alone didn’t win the game. I just had to be patient.
I’m sure I’ll break the curse one day in the near future, but I am at least happy I finally made it to the top board heading into the final round of the tournament – already the farthest I’ve made it thus far.
It feels like a long countdown until this weekend’s G/75 Pennsylvania State Chess Championships and Pittsburgh Chess League matches, so I’ve been killing time doing opening research and watching ongoing Grandmaster games.
With Gibraltar over, there aren’t exactly many high profile games to watch, but there is the Bicontinental Match-up (South America and Antartica) between Women’s World Championship Candidate Hou Yifan and Cristobal Henriquez Villagra, an up-and-coming player from Chile.
Hou Yifan is a player easy to overlook, but after today’s post, I think you’ll see just strong she really is. Let’s take a look:
Hou Yifan – Henriquez Villagra (Match Bicontinental de Ajedrez, 2016)
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6
6.g3 Qc7 7.Bg2
7…Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.e4
9…d6 10.Be3 Nbd7
14.Qd2 Rfc8 15.f4 Nc6 16.Qf2 Bd8 17.Rfd1
20.Nd2 Qb4 21.a3 Qxa3
22.cxd5 exd5 23.Ra1!
23…Qf8 24.Nxd5 Be6 25.Nc4 1-0
Black threw in the towel here, as there’s no easy way to defend against f4-f5 and Nb6 threats. Complete positional domination from the Chinese Grandmaster as she dispatched her opponent while making it look easy! There are two games left in the match, and it’ll be one of the last opportunities to watch Hou Yifan before the Women’s World Championship in March when she takes on the reigning champion, Mariya Muzychuk.
As promised, I wanted to share my loss against four-time US Chess Champion Alexander Shabalov at the Pittsburgh Chess Club’s recent simultaneous exhibition. Watch Shabalov bounce back from a worse position and grind out a win in a drawn endgame!