Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to lose a game in 10 moves or less.

Submitted by GM Gserper on

In the last articles we discussed a good strategy to get a practical chance to beat someone much stronger than you. I want to emphasize the key words ('practical chance'), because as one of the readers (mightyrearranger) correctly pointed out: "At the end of the day though, ratings don't lie. If you're playing someone 500-600 points better than you then you're going to get beaten 9 times out of 10. There's nothing more for it than giving it a lash, having some fun and trying to learn from the experience." Thank you, very well said! You should always remember, that in most cases you are still poor Cinderella and at the final stroke of midnight your beautiful horse-drawn carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and horses become just mice!

As I mentioned in last week's article ( ) I was a lucky witness to Emory Tate's biggest triumph. But I also saw his worst nightmare! It happened towards the end of the traditional Western States Open in Reno. ( By the way, I've played more then a dozen times there and strongly recommend to you this tournament. The chief organizer Jerry Weikel does everything he can for you to remember why chess is called the Royal Game. Just with the mention that you don't need to bring your chess set, do I need to say more? I know, for most of the chess players around the World it sounds weird, but the US folks will understand what I am talking about Tongue out.) Anyway, again I am playing next to Emory Tate and his opponent is one of the strongest US GMs at that time, Alex Yermolinsky. The good thing about playing next to Emory, is it is very entertaining because you never know what to expect there (like the famous Forrest Gump saying about a box of chocolates). But this time Emory 'the GM slayer' Tate was off-form and here is what happens when the music stops:

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your attacking skills, so the game is given as a Quiz. Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)

Alex Yermolinsky vs. Emory A Tate
Western States Open / Reno
Round 4 | 2001
ECO: A43 | 1-0
White to move
7... Nf5??
This game makes me think: why do strong chess players (and if you doubt that IM Tate is a strong chess player just check his game vs. Yudasin from the above-mentioned article) lose like this from time to time? And in general, why do decent chess players lose embarrassing games in 10 moves or less? If your answer is something like "Well, bad things just happen," then you are potentially the next victim. These catastrophes don't just happen, there is always a reason for them. Let's categorize the typical mistakes that lead to this miniatures. Please note that we used only the games of Titled players for our little research, so every single victim is a Master or a Grandmaster with a rating of at least 2300 FIDE.
1) Paying no attention.
This common problem claims the majority of the victims. Just look at the next game.
Siegbert Tarrasch vs. Semion Alapin
Breslau | Breslau | 1889 | ECO: C42 | 1-0
How could one of the best players of his time possibly make such a beginner's mistake? Larry Evans explains: "This weird mistake came about because Alapin had expected the customary d4 instead of d3. Imagine his chagrin when he took another look at the board and saw that his knight was en prise!" This curious game reminds me of one wicked blitz trap. Please promise me to never use it since even though it is perfectly legal, I don't think it is very ethical. Deal?
OK, it goes like this: after the moves 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 (or 2... Nc6) White grabs his 'd' pawn and powerfully moves it towards the d4 square only to leave it on d3. Of course Black expects the standard 3. d4 move and grabs his own 'c5' pawn to execute the cxd4 capture only to realize that White actually played 3.d3. Due to the 'touch move' rule he is forced to play 3...c4 which after 4.dxc4 gives White an extra pawn and an enhanced version of the Marozci bind!
wicked trap
Again, be aware of this trap, but please, don't try it at home!
2) Lack of opening knowledge.
We all understand that a knowledge of basic variations in the openings you play is a requirement (especially if you play a sharp opening like the Dragon). Yet, many chess players don't do the necessary due diligence and the consequences are usually not pretty. It is sad to see dozens of chess players falling into the same trap. Here is an example:
Novikov, Igor (2540) vs. Finegold, Benjamin (2490)
New York Open
ECO: D07 | 1-0
White to move
9... O-O-O??
If only IM (today a GM) Benjamin Finegold checked a database for the games played with his favorite Chigorin Defense, he would not have missed the game GM Schmidt (2460)- IM Grabarczyk (2325), Poland Championsip, 1991 which ended exactly the same way. I am sure you know dozens of opening traps like this which claim new victims year after year, but to make a long story short, let me just sum up: you should know your opening stuff!
to be continued

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