Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making the Most of Breaks Between Tournaments -

Making the Most of Breaks Between Tournaments -


Making the Most of Breaks Between Tournaments

Submitted by WGM Natalia_Pogonina on

The life of a chess pro is a sequence of trips from one tournament to another. Some prefer to play virtually non-stop; others can afford to compete from time to time. Naturally, a person who wants to improve in chess should not only play, but also work on chess and self-improvement between events. This approach guarantees a good result. A lot depends on how much spare time you have. A long break is one thing, a short one is another. The three main components that you should pay attention to are: a) chess skill and shape b) psychology c) physical shape. Keeping that in mind, let’s discuss some tips on how to spend your free time in the optimal way in terms of chess improvement.

  1. Let’s say you have a long break between tournaments

By saying “long break” we mean a few months or more. This is a lot of time, and you should be able to progress a lot if you plan your activities carefully. First of all, don’t forget to analyze your tournament games. Some players prefer to take a shot at it right after the tournament, while they still remember what was going on over the board. Others prefer to rest for a few days and only then deal with this work. After having analyzed the games, you should be able to pinpoint your main current weaknesses and start working on eliminating them. In some cases it’s easy to patch things up (e.g. study a certain opening line where you are having problems). In other situations hard work may be called for (e.g. if you play the endgame like a patzer).

The above mentioned tips are “first aid” measures. The rest is connected with increasing your mastery in general. For example, studying chess (openings, middlegame, endgame), solving tactics, playing training games, etc. I have written a few dozen columns at dedicated to different aspects of this process – take a look, and there is a good chance that you will find an article about the topic you are interested in.

A long break also allows one to take care of one’s health and physical shape. Don’t neglect psychology. If you are besieged by problems (conflicts in the family, financial troubles, low self-esteem, and so on), this will also affect your playing strength in a negative way. Therefore, having a peaceful mind is an absolute necessity for getting good results in chess.

  1. Short breaks

Now this case is trickier. “Short break” means less than a month. Every day counts and your plan would depend a lot on their number. If it’s just a few days, then you had better relax and deflect your attention from chess. The only plausible chess activities are solving tactics and mending your opening prep. Physical activity is usually rewarding, as it allows one’s brain to rest. The main secret is to start decreasing your activity closer to the beginning of the tournament (about a week before the start). Otherwise there is a chance of exhausting oneself. If you have psychological problems, you had also better get them sorted out before the next event.

Both long and short breaks have their pros and cons. Long breaks allow one to work thoroughly on all the components, but the con is that you may lose your chess shape. Short breaks have a serious drawback – it’s hard to tackle serious problems in patch-fixing mode. However, there is also an advantage – you maintain your chess shape and get to play more games, thus earning more experience. It’s up to you to decide what suits you best. Depending on the period of life, you may want to combine both approaches, i.e. vary between making long and short breaks. For example, before an important competition one had better take an intermediate break – not too short, not too long.

Now let me tell you about the decisive game from the European Women’s Chess Championship-2011 against WGM Nazi Paikidze. I was forced into a must-win situation to qualify for the World Championship.

Pogonina, N. (2448) vs. Paikidze, N. (2408)
ch-Euro Indiv Women | Tbilisi GEO | Round 11| 18 May 2011 | ECO: B12 | 1-0
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6 4. Nc3 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bf5 6. c3 Nd7 7. Bd3 e5 8. Ne2 exd4 9. cxd4 Bb4+ 10. Bd2 Ne7 11. O-O O-O 12. Bc3 Bg6 ( 12... Nd5 13. Qd2 a5 ) 13. a3 Bxc3 14. bxc3 Nd5 15. Qd2 ( 15. Re1 Rad8 16. Rb1 ( 16. c4 N5f6 17. Nxf6+ Nxf6 18. Bxg6 hxg6 ) 16... Qc7 17. a4 ) 15... Qa5 16. a4 Rfd8 17. Kh1 ( 17. Rfb1 Rab8 18. Rb2 b5 19. Nc1 bxa4 ( 19... Bxe4 20. fxe4 Nxc3 21. Nb3 Qb4 22. axb5 cxb5 23. Rxa7 ) ( 19... b4 20. cxb4 Rxb4 21. Bc4 Qb6 22. Rxb4 Qxb4 ( 22... Nxb4 23. a5 Qb8 24. Rb1 ) 23. Bxd5 Qxd2 24. Bxf7+ Kxf7 25. Nxd2 Nc5 ) 20. Nb3 Qc7 21. Rxa4 c5 22. Nbxc5 Rxb2 23. Qxb2 Nxc5 24. Nxc5 Bxd3 25. Nxd3 Qxc3 26. Qxc3 Nxc3 27. Rxa7 Nb5 ) 17... Nf8 18. Rfb1 ( 18. Nc5 Bxd3 19. Qxd3 Qc7 ) 18... Rab8 ( 18... b6!? ) 19. Qg5?! ( 19. Nc5 Bxd3 20. Qxd3 Nb6 ( 20... Qc7 21. Re1 Nd7 22. Ne4 N7f6 23. N2g3 ) 21. Nb3 Qg5 22. a5 Nd5 23. Nc5 ) 19... Qc7 ( 19... Ne6 20. Qg3 f5 21. Ng5 f4 22. Qg4 Nxg5 23. Bxg6 Nxc3 24. Nxc3 hxg6 25. Ne2 Qf5 26. Qxf4 Qxf4 27. Nxf4 Rxd4 28. Nxg6 Kh7 ) 20. a5 Ne6 21. Qg3?! ( 21. Qd2 ) 21... Qe7 ( 21... Qxg3 22. hxg3 Ng5 23. Rb3 ( 23. Re1 Nxe4 24. fxe4 ( 24. Bxe4 Bxe4 25. fxe4 Ne3 ) 24... Re8 25. exd5 Bxd3 26. Nf4 Ba6 ) ( 23. Nc5 Bxd3 24. Nxd3 Re8 ) 23... Nxe4 24. Bxe4 Bxe4 25. fxe4 Nf6 26. e5 Ne4 ) 22. Qf2 Rbc8 23. Rd1 b6 ( 23... c5 24. c4 ( 24. dxc5 Bxe4 ( 24... Nxc5 25. Nxc5 Qxc5 26. Qxc5 Rxc5 27. Bxg6 hxg6 28. Nf4 g5 29. Nxd5 Rcxd5 30. Rxd5 Rxd5 31. Kg1 Rc5 32. Rb1 ) 25. Bxe4 ( 25. fxe4 Qf6 ( 25... Nf6 26. e5 Nd7 27. c6 Rxc6 28. Qxa7 ) 26. Kg1 Qxf2+ 27. Kxf2 Nf6 ) 25... Qxc5 26. Qxc5 Rxc5 27. Rd3 Ndc7 28. Rxd8+ Nxd8 29. Kg1 Kf8 ) 24... Bxe4 ( 24... Nb4 25. d5 Nxd3 26. Rxd3 Bxe4 27. fxe4 Ng5 28. Nc3 Nxe4 29. Qe2 f5 30. Nxe4 Qxe4 ( 30... fxe4 31. Re3 Re8 32. Re1 ) 31. Re3 ( 31. Qxe4 fxe4 32. Re3 Re8 33. Rae1 Rb8 34. Rxe4 Rxe4 35. Rxe4 b5 36. axb6 Rxb6 37. Kg1 Kf7 ) 31... Qg4 32. Qxg4 fxg4 33. Re7 Rb8 34. Rb1 Re8 35. Rc7 b5 ) 25. Bxe4 Nf6 26. Bf5 cxd4 27. Nxd4 Qc5 ( 27... Rxc4 28. Nxe6 Rxd1+ 29. Rxd1 fxe6 30. Re1 ) 28. Bxe6 fxe6 29. Qe1 e5 30. Nf5 e4 31. fxe4 Ng4 32. Rd5 Rxd5 33. exd5 Nf2+ 34. Kg1 Nh3+ 35. Kh1 Nf2+ ) 24. Bc4 ( 24. axb6 axb6 25. Kg1 ( 25. c4 Nb4 26. Bb1 b5 ) ) 24... b5 25. Bb3 f5 26. N4g3 ( 26. Nc5 Nxc5 27. dxc5 Bf7 28. Re1 Qe3 29. Kg1 Qxf2+ 30. Kxf2 Nf6 ) 26... f4 27. Ne4 Bf7 28. Rd2 ( 28. Nc1 c5 29. dxc5 Nxc5 30. Nxc5 Rxc5 31. Ne2 g5 ) 28... Kh8 29. Nc1 b4 ( 29... c5 30. dxc5 Nxc5 31. Nxc5 Rxc5 32. Ne2 ) 30. cxb4 Nxb4 ( 30... Qxb4 31. Ba2 Qxa5 32. Nd3 Qc7 33. Ne5 ) 31. Ne2 ( 31. Bxe6 Bxe6 32. Nd3 Nxd3 33. Rxd3 Rb8 ) 31... Nd5 32. Ba2 Qb4?! ( 32... Bg6 ) 33. Nc1 Ne3? ( 33... Qxa5 34. Nd3 ) 34. Nd3 Qxa5 ( 34... Qxd4 35. Rc1 Nf5 36. Qe1 ) 35. Qe1 ( 35. Nxf4 Nxf4 36. Qxe3 Nd5 37. Qe1 ) 35... Qf5? ( 35... Nd5 36. Ne5 Qc7 37. Qh4 h6 38. Re1 ) 36. Ne5? ( 36. g4 ) 36... Bg8? ( 36... Bg6 37. g4 Nxg4 38. Bxe6 Qxe6 39. fxg4 Qd5 40. Re2 ) ( 36... Bh5 37. g4 Bxg4 38. Nxg4 Nxd4 ( 38... Nxg4 39. fxg4 Qg6 40. Bxe6 Qxe6 ) 39. Nxe3 fxe3 40. Qxe3 Qxf3+ 41. Qxf3 Nxf3 42. Rf2 ) ( 36... Nd5 37. Bb1 Bg8 ( 37... Rc7 38. Nd6 Qf6 39. Ndxf7+ Rxf7 40. Nxf7+ ) 38. Nd6 Qh5 39. Nxc8 ) 37. g4 fxg3 ( 37... Qf8 38. Ng6+ hxg6 39. Qh4+ Bh7 40. Bxe6 ) 38. Qxe3 Nxd4? ( 38... gxh2 39. Rxh2 Nxd4 40. Ng3 Qf6 41. Nh5 Qh6 42. Nf4 ) ( 38... c5 39. Nxg3 Qf8 ( 39... cxd4 40. Nxf5 dxe3 41. Rxd8 Rxd8 42. Nxe3 ) 40. d5 Nd4 41. Ne2 ) 39. Nxg3 Qf6 40. Rxd4 Rxd4 41. Qxd4 c5 42. Qc3 c4 43. Re1

Sloppy play in the opening led to an about equal position, where I tried to avoid simplifications. At some point it could result in an inferior position. The move 24. Bc4 was risky, but I had to initiate a chess fight somehow. 25…f5 was overactive and gave White the chance to exploit the e5-square. In time trouble my opponent allowed me to transfer my knight to a critical outpost, and blundered. After move 36 the game was basically decided in my favor.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grandmaster Chess Training and Opening Preparation -

Grandmaster Chess Training and Opening Preparation -

Grandmaster Chess Training and Opening Preparation

Submitted by GM arunabi on

Kkjimbo asked:

I am a low ranked club player (British Chess Fed 109) A fellow patzer at my club has agreed to spend some time with me in the close season training. We plan on a once a week 1 or 2 hour session. Have you any tips on how we could get the best out of this time.

Dear Kkjimbo,

What we would recommend is, to play a lot of practice games. Never mind about the result but try to give your best in each game. Take your game seriously and do not think that the player you are playing against is your friend. Try only to give your best in each game. Whether you win or lose you still have something to learn. After each game you both can analyze the game and share the ideas. If you learn a new opening try to play those lines in practice games. You will gain lot of ideas before the real tournament game.

One more idea is, try to play blindfold games. One of you can play with the board and the other player will be playing blindfold. This will make you sharp if you are getting ready for a tournament. Try to solve as many tactical problems as possible.


What does it take to become a grandmaster, how much training and how much dedication. And do you think everyone, regardless of talent, can become a Grandmaster?

Greetings from Denmark, Simon Seirup

Officially the GM title is the highest title one can achieve in Chess apart from becoming a World Champion. It cannot be said that everyone can become a Grandmaster. To become a Grandmaster you definitely require talent and proper training. I have seen a few IM’s who definitely play at a Grandmaster standard but still don’t become a GM. One of our friends who became a Grandmaster a couple of years back, missed the GM title in a single game in 2005. He just needed a draw against a GM in the final round to achieve his 3rd GM norm and cross the 2500 mark. But he lost that game and it took him another four years to achieve the GM title. It is clear that not just training and talent matter, but also strong nerves.

A Grandmaster should have a good opening repertoire. Hence to be a good GM, opening training is also important. Opening theory is developing in leaps and bounds in recent times and it is essential to keep track of recent developments. It does not matter how many hours you work but it is important to do the necessary work. Kramnik in one of his interviews said “Chess training is like gym training:” no matter what you will have to train every day. If you miss one day then you will have to work several days to makeup for it.

Players who are pretty good in tactics and attacking chess might not be strong in positional chess and vice versa. If there is a weakness it is important to work on it and eliminate it.

I know GMs and IMs play the opening differently from other players, but how differently do they play the opening, what is their intention in the opening?

GM’s and IM’s are usually well prepared in the openings. They have clear ideas about the openings they play and they often try to get the advantage in the opening itself.

They prepare the openings in such a way that they have analyzed all the possible ideas for the opponent and they know the exact way to counter them. They study the opening in a much more concrete way than the normal players. They know the piece placements and pawn structures for different openings.

That is why when a GM plays a Novelty against another GM, it is not really easy for the latter to play, since the player who introduces the novelty would have analyzed all the possible ideas his opponent can play and will be ready to face them. But the one who is facing the novelty has to work out everything over the board, which is really not easy. Unless you have analyzed the opening and know the games previously played and ideas used in that line you cannot even understand that the opponent has played a novelty, much less respond correctly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Forced and Unforced Errors. -

Forced and Unforced Errors. -


Forced and Unforced Errors.

Submitted by WIM energia on

Using sports language in chess a player who makes more unforced errors loses. By unforced errors I mean the errors that a player makes due to lack of class or experience that most grandmasters will spot right away as weak moves. When a grandmaster plays an expert or a master over the span of the game a lower ranked player will make more unforced errors in most cases. Grandmasters do not need to win by outcalculating a lower ranked player, or by creating some brilliancy, they just need to wait out by simply keeping the game going. In other words give the opponent the chance to go wrong.

However, what do you do when a much lower opponent plays brilliantly and completely outplays you and to you it looks like it is time to resign? Today’s game is an example of this situation, when GM Kachieshvili, playing black ended up in a really bad endgame against 2200-ranked Feinstein. This is the position from the game that we will look at today:

White to move

Looking at the position one can guess that this is about time to try to force the opponent to make errors. In tennis this would be to get the opponent out of position. In chess this can be done also over the board. First of all, you can try getting the opponent out of their comfort zone by simply changing the picture of the game: sacrificing something, exchanging pieces, changing the pawn structure. This should be done carefully, in order not to lose right away. Another way is to play faster and to give the opponent the chance to get into time trouble. There is mental pressure too; you can try to prolong the game by sticking to passive defense as long as possible, so the opponent gets tired.

What I would not advise is behaving poorly at the board. I was a witness to a game during the Chicago Open where a 2400 player was going down to a 2100 player. He was two pawns down in a queen endgame and it looked like it was over but then he started to use psychological pressure to distract his opponent. First, he claimed a draw by three-fold repetition, while not keeping the score and after making his move: of course the TD did not uphold his claim. Then he was shuffling his pen back and forth, after which he opened his phone, which shined with red lights. His opponent reacted by pointing out that the phone is not allowed to be turned on in the tournament room and continued to play. The game entered the 6th hour of play. As I was absorbed by my hopeless position, I missed the part where queens were traded and then the 2100 realized with horror that the pawn endgame was a draw. This was unbelievable and I guess all the tricks that the 2400 player used in the end payed off if winning is the ultimate goal, and if integrity and respect for the opponent do not count.

I have not yet seen how Kacheishvili managed to accumulate all the forced and unforced errors needed to lead this game to victory, however I played out this position with white and to me it looked like it should not be much trouble to realize the extra pawn.

Game1 vs. ?
Las Vegas | 2011 | 1-0
White needs to make two moves before time control and as we all learned it is better not to change the picture of the game if you have an advantage. However, this position is an exception - white can make a change in the position, that is easy to calculate and rather obvious.

The important ideas learned from the game:

  • Having a few minutes left for two moves before time control might be a perfect environment for an error. White had to go against the stereotype of not changing the picture of the game when in time trouble and when having an advantage. White also had to evaluate the position resulting after the d6-pawn falls and had to realize that the white king gets to the kingside faster.
  • Waiting for the time trouble to pass worked too in this position. Although, it benefited the GM as the position remained complicated, which increased the chances of the unforced errors of a lower rated player.
  • Chasing after beauty on move 41 was fruitless as the white king did not enter the game at the right time.

Next week we will continue with the same position. Let me know your thoughts on forced and unforced errors and chess methods to force an opponent to commit error; I would be glad to read them in the comments section.