Preparing for a Game
« Articles Submitted by WGM Natalia_Pogonina on Tue, 11/23/2010 at 7:52am. Chess.com
Here and there we hear all types of things about “home prep”, but how do grandmasters prepare for their games in real life? The pre-game stage is often as important as the game itself. So, what is the most efficient way of preparing for your next chess match?
Let’s say you have looked up the pairings for the next day and found out who your opponent is. Different people have different approaches to the preparation stage. Let’s review the main ones.
1. Preparing in the evening
After returning from the game, you continue the chess work by preparing for the next game. The next morning you will only refresh and memorize the variations you have chosen in advance. Pros: your head won’t get too tired before the game. Cons: preparation requires a lot of energy. In the evening you are likely to be tired and miss something. Moreover, it will prevent you from taking a proper rest, which can affect your performance in the rounds to come.
2. Preparing in the morning
Most of the preparation is performed in the morning, while during the evening before the game you take a quick look at your opponent’s profile. Pros: you can rest well after the game. Cons: your head may get tired in the morning and crack during the game. Also, sometimes just before the round you realize that a certain variation doesn’t work (is flawed), and have no time to fix it.
3. Mixed preparation: in the evening & in the morning
This option works best for chessoholics with an excellent physical shape. Pros: by spending a lot of time preparing you get to know your opponent well and can choose the optimal variation. Cons: anyone may get tired all of a sudden, and that can affect your overall result in a negative way.
There is one more “secret” option – consciously give up on preparing before a game. This can be done for a number of reasons: when your opponent is well-known for playing all sorts of lines (unpredictable opponent); when you are sick/tired and can’t waste precious energy on anything. No matter what the reason, the aim is usually the same – to have a “fresh head” during the game.
It is important to note that the timing and intensity of preparation depend on your general wellbeing. If you are fit, motivated and willing to study, go ahead. When you are tired, disappointed, ill, it is vital not to be too hard on yourself.
After having played a few tournaments, people usually get a feel for what suits them best. For example, my personal choice is option #2. Also, due to being rather fragile, I try not to spend over two hours on preparing, otherwise it harms my play.
The next question that jumps to mind is “how do I prepare for a game?” Here is a brief overview:
1.Scan the opponent’s games using a chess database or (at least) the games from the tournament – usually available online. Pay a lot of attention to his/her openings. Try to understand what positions he/she prefers, and which he/she plays badly. If you have enough time, try to compile a complete dossier on him/her – psychology, weaknesses and strengths in chess, current chess shape, physical shape, motivation, time management, etc.
2.Depending on a variety of factors (tournament situation, opponent’s style, your own wellbeing) you can choose an opening variation (or a few of them, depending on how broad your opponent’s opening repertoire is).
3.If necessary, study the variation in more detail, try to find new ideas.
4.Rehearse the lines before the game (normally the higher the level of a player, the longer it takes).
Of course, the better you are prepared for the tournament, the less time you need to spend on your homework during the event itself. However, many pros are either lazy or too busy travelling from one tournament to another, so they have to catch up on chess theory between rounds.
Now let's take a look at another game of mine from the recent European Club Cup:
Melia, S. (2439) vs. Pogonina, N. (2491)15th European Club Cup Women
20 Oct 2010
pawn promotion 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bb7 7. Re1 Bc5 8. c3 O-O 9. d4 Bb6 10. h3 ( 10. dxe5 Ng4 ) ( 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Nxe4 ) 10... d6 11. Be3 exd4 ( 11... Na5 12. dxe5 ( 12. d5 Bxe3 13. Rxe3 c6 14. dxc6 Bxc6 15. Nbd2 Nxb3 16. axb3 Qc7 ) ( 12. Bc2 Nxe4 13. dxe5 Bxe3 14. Rxe3 Ng5 15. Nxg5 Qxg5 16. Qg4 Qxg4 17. hxg4 Nc4 18. Rh3 g6 19. exd6 Rfe8 20. Kf1 ( 20. dxc7 Re1+ 21. Kh2 Rc8 ) 21... Nxd6 21. Nd2 Rad8 ) ( 12. Nbd2 Nxb3 13. Qxb3 exd4 14. Bxd4 c5 15. Bxf6 Qxf6 ) 12... dxe5 13. Nbd2 ( 13. Nxe5 Nxb3 14. Qxb3 Bxe3 15. Rxe3 Nxe4 ) ( 13. Bxb6 cxb6 14. Nbd2 ( 14. Nxe5 Nxb3 15. Qxd8 Rfxd8 16. axb3 Nxe4 ) 15... Nxb3 ) 13... Nxb3 14. Qxb3 Bxe3 15. Rxe3 Qd6 ) 12. cxd4 Na5 ( 12... Re8 13. Ng5 ( 13. d5 Ne5 14. Nxe5 Rxe5 15. Bxb6 cxb6 16. Nd2 ) 13... Re7 14. Nc3 Na5 ( 14... h6 15. e5 dxe5 16. Nxf7 Rxf7 17. Bxf7+ Kxf7 18. Qb3+ Kf8 19. dxe5 Nd4 ( 19... Nd7 20. e6 Nc5 21. Qc2 ) 20. Qa3+ Kg8 21. exf6 Qxf6 22. Bxd4 Bxd4 23. Re2 Rf8 24. Nd1 ) 15. e5 dxe5 16. Nxf7 Rxf7 17. Bxf7+ Kxf7 18. dxe5 Qxd1 19. Raxd1 Bxe3 20. Rxe3 Ne8 21. e6+ Kf8 22. Nd5 ) 13. d5 Bxe3 14. Rxe3 Nxb3 ( 14... Re8 15. Qd3 ( 15. Nbd2 Nxb3 16. Qxb3 c6 17. dxc6 Bxc6 ) ( 15. Qd4 c6 16. dxc6 Nxc6 17. Qd3 Na5 18. Nc3 Nxb3 19. axb3 b4 ) 15... Nxb3 ( 15... c5 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. Nc3 Nxb3 ) 16. axb3 c6 17. dxc6 Bxc6 18. Nc3 b4 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 Rxe3 21. Qxe3 a5 ) 15. Qxb3 ( 15. axb3!? Re8 ( 15... c6 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. Nc3 Re8 18. Qd4 ) 16. Qd4 Qd7 17. Nc3 c5 18. dxc6 Qxc6 ) 15... c5 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. Nc3 Re8 18. Rae1 Qb6?! ( 18... Rc8 19. e5 ( 19. Nd4 Bd7 20. Rd1 Rc4 ) 19... dxe5 20. Nxe5 Qc7 21. Nxc6 Qxc6 22. Re7 Rxe7 23. Rxe7 Rf8 ) 19. e5? ( 19. a4 Nd7 ( 19... b4? 20. e5 ) ( 19... Qc5 20. axb5 axb5 21. e5 Bxf3 22. exf6 Rxe3 23. Rxe3 Bc6 24. fxg7 ) 20. axb5 ( 20. Rd1 Nc5 21. Qc2 b4 22. Rxd6 bxc3 23. Rxc3 Bxa4 24. Rxb6 Bxc2 25. Rxc2 Nxe4 ) 21... axb5 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. Qxd5 Rac8 23. Qd4 ) 19... dxe5 20. Nxe5 Qb7 21. Nxc6 ( 21. Qb4 Bxg2?? ( 21... h6 ) 22. Ng4 Rxe3 23. Nxf6+ gxf6 24. Rxe3 Kh8 25. Qf4 Qc6 26. Rg3 ) 21... Qxc6 22. Re7 Rxe7 23. Rxe7 Rf8 24. Qb4 ( 24. a4 Qd6 25. Ra7 Qb6 26. Re7 Qd6 ) 24... Re8 ( 24... Nd5 25. Nxd5 Qxd5 ) 25. Rxe8+ Qxe8 26. Qd6 Qc8 27. Kh2 h6 28. a3 Qf5 29. Kg1 ( 29. f3 Kh7 30. Qxa6 Qe5+ 31. Kg1 Qe1+ ) 29... Qc2 30. Qxa6 Qc1+ 31. Kh2 Qf4+ ( 31... Qxb2? 32. Qc8+ Kh7 33. Qf5+ Kg8 34. Nxb5 )
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