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.
Unfortunately I was unable to play in the London Chess Classic this year. That’s because even though the grandmasters were offered £1250 to play in the FIDE open, you don’t get this money until after the event.
The way the fee structure is set up is that the £1250 is there as a guarantee against your prize. So therefore if you end up winning say £800 in the FIDE open, you don’t win anymore than the £1250 in any case. And as I didn’t have the money to afford to pay for a hotel in london for ten days, I had to withdraw.
In life your personality can be both a strength and a weakness. This was certainly the case with Magnus Carlsen, who’s rather laid-back attitude to defending his title nearly cost him.
No doubt the playing strength of his opponent, Sergey Karjakin, took him by surprise, as it did so many others including this commentator. Karjakin, through months of sheer hard work, raised his play to a level we have not seen from him before and subsequently was able to match Carlsen accurate move for accurate move.
I’ve been playing in the 4NCL for more or less twenty years now. At the moment I represent Blackthorne Russia, we play in the first division, and I play on board one which ensures I get to test my skills against a number of very strong players.
Surely I should be satisfied with such a scenario? Well, apparently not.
The Caro-Kann is one of the most difficult openings to beat in chess. It was a favourite of Capablanca, and in more recent times has been used with great success most famously by Karpov, and also by British players like Jon Speelman.
My great rival and friend Keith Arkell has also used this opening in countless number of games - he likes the solidity of Black’s set-up, and believes that the extra e-pawn that Black enjoys is very useful for any endgame. How to crack it? Not easy.
The World Chess Championships starts in New York in a few days time and already commentators are falling over themselves trying to predict the outcome. Most are forecasting a comfortable win for Magnus and indeed the odds reflect that - generally speaking the bookmakers make Magnus about a 75 percent favourite to win. In an effort to stand out from the crowd I made some comments on Facebook saying I think the match would be closer than many people think - saying that perhaps only Magnus would just edge it.
However to at least manage some research for this article, I decided to check their lifetime score against each other, and it revealed that Magnus leads 18-9 in decisive games, if you include rapid and blitz as well. This rather suggests that Carlsen is a much heavier favourite than I was giving him credit for.
No possible opening is safe from “SHOCK AND AWE”. Firstly we’re going to take on the most popular Sicilian of all, the Najdorf. I managed to find a funky way of taking on this opening where there’s very little theory.
Often I’ll speak to a player about a game and they’ll say how they played the c3 Sicilian or the Bb5 check variation, anything to avoid playing one of the main lines. I’ll say fine but why aren’t you taking the Sicilian head-on? What they’re afraid of is spending hours learning all the vast amount of theory associated with the main-line Sicilian.
Pavel Eljanov from the Ukraine won the third Isle of Man Masters on tiebreak from Fabiano Caruana, who also had an excellent tournament and moved up in rating to clear world number two behind Mighty Magnus. In fact their scores were tied, but Eljanov had the better tie break which was done on progressive scores.
I am apparently not alone in finding this antiquated rule completely ridiculous. Even the mild-mannered Harry Potter lookalike Caruana expressed irritation that he wasn’t given a chance to win the tournament in a tie break. It’s time these ridiculous tie-break rules were scrapped. It’s another way that chess needs to get up to date.
What is more important, getting results or having the right approach? Even if your results are good in the short term, there is a danger that eventually your luck will run out if you don’t have the right approach.
I realized that last year, that when I was up against strong players. You can’t get away with the sort of stuff that you can against players of a lower level, you quickly get found out. They analyse better. They see through your tricks. Basically I understood that I wasn’t calculating well enough, so I had to go back to the drawing board, I got the dusty old chess set out of the cupboard and trained myself to calculate again. I’d set up a sharp middlegame position from a game I’d find online or something like that, and try to work my way through the complications.
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