I got a good response to my request for chess players to send me their games to try and look at some of their more obvious mistakes, and try to analyse the reasons for those mistakes.
A guy called Gerben sent me a game on Twitter, and (GM!) Bogdan Lalic also sent a selection of his games. I’ll look at their games later. But in this article I’m going to be looking at the games of Eric Gittrich. Eric is a 1500 plus rated player from the US and is very honest about some of his losses, coming out with comments like “I folded like a cheap suit”, and “I knew I was better but was intimidated by his rating”.
In my experience that’s a very good sign - if you’re willing to accept the fact that you’re making mistakes and are trying to find ways to prevent making those same errors in the future, that’s a major step to making serious chess improvement.
One of the things I noticed when analysing Eric’s games, without trying to sound too patronising, is how easy it is to identify his mistakes. If I go through the games between two GMs, then unless I use an engine it will probably take me a long time to identify any mistakes. It seems to me that in games between players of a lower level then mistakes are cropping up all the time, and this isn’t always an ABILITY thing, rather it’s a lack of knowledge of what to do in particular situations.
I get the impression that there’s an army of people out there who would easily cut out a large number of the mistakes they are making if they just had the right guidance. Anyway, let’s go on with the games.
In the next game Eric unfortunately managed to lose an equal ending:
Black lost this game because he was too respectful of his opponent- for example after the move 11. Ne5? He could have simply taken the knight but simply believed his opponent, and in the endgame he played far too passively - he should have looked for active counterplay with his rook but allowed White all the time in the world to set up a6 and Rb7 after which the endgame became very difficult to hold.
In chess we need to be continually questioning everything and doubting what our opponents are trying to tell us - as well as doubting our own assumptions.
Black was lucky in the end to escape with a draw. He failed to make the most of his early opening advantage.
In my view Eric needs to brush up his endgame skills. He should look perhaps at the games of Magnus Carlsen and how he handles the endgame phase. Remember good endgame skills are often about patience but that doesn’t mean playing passively. After the queens came off the board there were still many pieces on the board, Black needed to play actively with 16…Rac8! But instead seemed to hit upon the wrong plan with 16…Rd6? After which he gradually lost his advantage.
To sum up: In my view the future is bright for Eric in a chess sense, and I’m confident he can gain rating points. That’s because a lot of his mistakes it seems to me are a lack of knowledge, and if you have that gap in your knowledge then that’s something that’s easily rectifiable.
For example Eric is often getting good positions from the opening and then failing to capitalise or even losing these games later on, either due to unneccesarily passive play in the endgame, mistakes in calculation or simply failing to believe in his position enough.
I think one of the things Eric could do is to buy an endgame book, say by someone like Dvortetsky. This will give him a better idea of how to defend endings because it seems to me that he’s falling into the same trap that many lower-rated players fall into, i.e. not playing actively enough in the endgame. And there are gaps in understanding as well. This is also a really universal problem that so many chess players have is that there’s such an emphasis on the opening and middlegame on chess websites and in books that the endgame becomes neglected.
Eric also needs to play bolder and with more energy. For example failing to take on e5 in the game against Basir, playing Nd3 in the game against the 2200 player, and also in the game against Kathy Lin playing the slow Rd6 (instead of the more active Rac8!) and also b3? in the first game, all are symptoms of what I would describe as almost a “lack of optimism” and perhaps also a lack of objectivity, as too many of his decisions are based on human factors (like for example being intimidated by a high rating, or being affected by what happened previously) rather than an objective analysis of what is happening on the board.
Moving forward therefore I think Eric could do worse than look at the games of players like Tal and Kasparov, aggressive players who rarely give way to their opponents. I also think he do worse than hire a chess coach, who would be on hand to point any obvious errors and show him the way ahead.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.