To start with I’m going to concentrate on British chess - in the second part I’m going to be looking at more international events like the FIDE World Cup.
Luke McShane had a great chance to win the British and only fell at the final hurdle in the playoffs. It would be cruel to say that he’s become the “Jimmy White” of the British championships, but there’s also no doubt that it’s somewhat strange he hasn’t won the tournament by now given his evident strength.
A word that tends to often be overused when describing sporting collapses. However there’s no doubt that something strange happened to me in the last round of the British championships at Llaundudno. Whether it was choking, or fatigue, or a combination of those two I’m not really sure.
I do think that it’s not a coinicidence that the four who got into the play off were all under 35. Ok, three of them were the top three seeds, but you get the point.
Recently I started to think about why the late chess coach Mark Dvoretsky, who passed away recently, was so well acclaimed as a teacher of the game. It struck me that the real reason was that Dvoretsky wasn’t afraid to talk about some of the most difficult themes that crop up in chess.
It would have been easy for him to grind out a living talking about the sort of subjects that most gravy-trainers tend to fall back on, like showing off some wonderful attacking game featuring a stonking combination at the end, while showering such games with the usual platitudes and cliches.
But no, Dvoretsky had a real love of chess which shone through in his writing, and loved to get down to the nitty-gritty, and try and uncover the engine room of chess and the process that players go through when they consider their moves.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
is a typically profound quote from Socrates. And exactly the same logic can be applied to chess. Quite simply you must analyse your own games if you want to improve. Only that way will you be able to identify where you have been going wrong, what mistakes you have been making and what to do about them.
The Philidor defence is one of Black’s most solid defences to 1.e4. He aims to hunker down with as flexible position as possible and expand later. Recently this defence was given a boost by the “Black Lion” (I thought this might be something from one of David Attenboroughs programmes), a rather scary sub-variation that has been extolled by no less than the Ginger GM himself.
However, I wish to circumvent Black’s usual way of playing by recommending a system involving an early g4. This system is risky but it does have the benefit of immediately giving Black huge problems to solve. The whole idea of playing g4 in the Philidor I believe was first popularised by the ever inventive Latvian Alexey Shirov, who also created a similar idea against the Semi-Slav.
As we are on the eve of another world chess championship match, it seems like a pertinent time to talk about the oldest former world champion still alive, Boris Spassky, who was born in 1937. The reason I find Spassky interesting is because he’s the only world champion I’ve ever played. Before I played him I thought “yes, great player but nothing really more than that”.
Editors note: Danny sent us this article a long time ago, it’s my fault it wasn’t published earlier!
Spassky was always considered perhaps the first great “universal player”. During our analysis I got the distinct impression that his instincts lay in the area of attacking the opponents king, so really to be considered such an all-round talent was a great compliment.
In this article I want to look at some of the earliest games of Spassky, and try and explain how he was able to use these attacking skills at an early stage in the game.
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”.
I must admit out of all the openings I chose to do a shock and awe article against, the one I had most trouble with was the French. It seemed so solid that the only serious way to take it on was by choosing one of the main lines with 3.Nd2 or 3.Nc3.
The problem is for this series I only want to cover openings that haven’t been analysed to death, and there’s a SERIOUS amount of analysis that comes with either of those choices. I thought about a system involving an early 1.b3, but somehow combining 1.e4 with b3 has never made a lot of sense to me.
So, to cut a long story short, I finally settled on a system which might not be completely sound, but seems a lot of fun and at a lower level at least, is bound to score a lot of easy victories.
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Remember when you were young, you shined like the sun? Shine on, you crazy diamond!
It seems to me that when I was younger, the whole experience of playing chess was a completely different one to what it is now. Chess was fun! I used to checkmate my opponents with the four move checkmate, I enjoyed finding combinations as I worked my way up the ladder. And now? Now for me chess has become a complete misery. Just woe piled on woe piled on woe. Woe is me, and woe is chess, and chess is me. Woe, woe, woe.
No greater example of this can be provided that the horrible two weeks I just completed which started with the misery of playing one junior after another in dreary hastings, and was completed in Harrogate, where my hopes of capitalising on my 300 rating points edge on the rest of the field were cruelly dashed.
The Taimanov defence is one of the most solid variations of the Sicilian. The flexibility and soundness of this opening is perhaps it’s key attraction. In many lines Black will develop quickly on the queenside with …b5 followed by …Bb7, put his queen on c7 and the rook will go to c8. Having the pawn on e6 rather than d6 often makes it much more difficult for White to break down the Black position with a convential pawn storm.
That’s why in this Shock and Awe series I’m going to be recommending a system where White quickly develops his queen to f3. White simply disregards systems involving a pawn storm and goes for speedy development of his queenside instead. This line is easy to remember and as it’s quite a new system there’s not a huge amount of theory around it. It’s a line that’s been adopted by players like Caruana, Karjakin and Shirov with real success.
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