My second game was, for me, a beauty. As I approached this competition I was practicing my Scots Gambit and I was also trying to improve my rook endgames – this game gave me the opportunity to put into practice what I had been learning. The game was against someone I had drawn against at the last ‘Rookies Cup’ at Box Hill Chess Club, also with this opening. Here it is.
It’s whites turn to move, can they break through or can black escape and counter?
On the weekend my son and I entered the Melbourne Chess Club’s ‘Anzac Weekender’. This was the tournament I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post titled ‘training’. Of the 56 people who entered only a few were rated below FIDE 1200 (me being one) with several above FIDE 2000. It was a six round event and I had five games and one bye. Of the five games I played one was spoiled by a blunder and another was against my own son and was therefore fraught with a ‘do I try hard’ dilemma. This leaves three games that were un-sullied, and they were great games!
In my first game I never felt like I had the initiative but I always hoped that I would maintain some level of equality and perhaps counter-attack. I think this was optomistic – in retrospect I played very badly from a positional standpoint and allowed him strong open files and diagonals. In the position above my opponent, playing white, took half an hour to consider his next move. It is a key position and worth setting up on a board and analysing.
I call this position key because it is complex and a decision here has the ability to change the direction of the game. These are the kinds of positions that are in my ‘The Complete Chess Workout II’ book and I find these key position puzzles to be very good for helping me to improve. Here is the game.
I wrote about the ‘Smoking Indian’ a few posts ago in which I played a rook endgame. On Sunday I once again faced the same player and again the game featured an unusual response to my Sicilian Defence and a rook endgame – all in a similar amount of moves. This game felt closer and I was glad to practice rook endings again.
I have been posting about openings and focussing on the Scots Gambit for white and the Scandinavian for black. This weekend I entered my monthly ‘Rookies’ tournament at Boxhill Chess Club and played seven 15 minute games. In 4 games I played black and I was able to play the Scandinavian 3 times – my fourth black game was against an English opening and I played the symetrical. So the Scandinavian worked well and I think it unsettled my opponents. I also played three white games; one was a Sicilian that went beautifully – I used my ‘messing with the Sicilians’ system, another was against a French and my last was a Scots Gambit. In my Scots Gambit game I had a winning position early on and was happy to take a three repeat draw against a player with a 500 point higher rating. So less opportunity, this time, for my prepared white opening but it seemed to work when I played it. It looks like the next to openings I need to learn for white are answers to the French and answers to the English.
The opening of my Sicilian (Click on moves in parenthesis to see the engines recommendation)
The opening of my French (Click on moves in parenthesis to see book moves)
This is a follow on from my previous post and but Instead of posting about the moves of pieces I thought I’d focus on my process of learning an opening. The Scots Gambit is a fairly uncommon opening and I don’t have a books about it so I have started my research through watching videos. While watching the videos I have been noting moves and lines which I have then put into an opening tree. I have tabulated this into a spreadsheet that shows all the posible lines I could play in response to good moves from my opponent. Often my opponent has a number of good, or likely, moves (shown in green above) and the spreadsheet is fairly complicated. I have called this spreadsheet ‘Scots Gambit’. This is step 1 – ‘Research’.
My next step is to limit my responses to one move rather than a number of possible continuations. I have chosen the move that most reduces the responses of my opponents. By this I mean that on move 6, for example, I could chose 6.Nc3 or 6.e5 – if I chose 6.Nc3 then the clear and best response from my opponent is 6. …Bd7 and following that there is a limited sequence of good moves but if I chose 6.e5 my opponent could respond well with 6. …dxe5 6. …Qe7 or 6. …Nd7 some of these then branch out further. I have therefore chosen 6.Nc3 to prune the branches of my opening tree. I have made an updated spreadsheet called ‘Scots Gambit Condensed’. End of step 2 – ‘Guidelines’.
The next step I took was to play quick unrated games on chess.com, games that are 5 minutes per side, in which I play as much as I can from memory then refer to my spreadsheet when I can’t remember the moves. By doing this I am memorising the moves as best as I can. Ongoing step 3 – ‘Practice’.
But isn’t this all rote learning? Yes it has been but I am now going back to the videos and instead of recording the moves I am listening to the reasons behind the moves. The reasons given in videos are normally tactical but some videos talk about aims and strategies. In the Scots Gambit one aim seems to be to blockade the Queenside and attack on the Kingside. Step 4 – ‘Substance’.
Finally I am going back to step 3 with greater knowledge and playing better until I feel confident and start to see common middlegame themes.
Many good players will say that a person at my level doesn’t need such a focus on openings but I would disagree. It has been interesting learning undertaking this process and it has given me an insight into how grandmasters would prepare (it must be a massive undertaking to learn all the main openings and all the most probable continuations for those openings). By starting to learn openings in depth now I can hope to have a number of openings learnt in time. Also after 5 or 6 moves the positions in most openings become varied and complex and this is teaching me about middlegames, pawn structure, themes and positional play .