In my last post, ‘Alcohol’, I noted that my game was driven by tempo, I was attacking from the beginning of the game and didn’t get much of a chance to develop pieces. It worked on that occasion because my opponent was moired and I could get away with it. But normal, considered chess, is all about manoeuvring your pieces to dominating positions and then allowing those pieces to work well in combination to drive an attack. It requires piece activity and this is the topic that my sons chess teacher is focusing on currently.
Below is game 20 of the 1990 Kasparov vs Karpov world championship match. In it Kasporov shows beautiful combinative piece play in addition to amazing calculation skills. The video above shows how many options he has for his final attack and these options exist because of his piece play.
My son is taking part in the upcoming state chess championship next weekend. His Tuesday chess club teacher is giving him exercises that he believes are the best way for kids to improve and sharpen skills, I have been doing them as well. These are calculation exercises of fairly complicated positions. The exercise starts with a move that has been played, it might be a great move (!!) or a dubious move (?!) the task is to work through the possibilities, without moving any pieces, and consider the strength of the move. It is important to keep calculating concretely as far as possible so that your assessment is as thorough as it can be. Here are four examples, I recommend working through them in your head first then jotting down the different continuations you have come up with.
Garry Kasparov vs. Dimitry Kalumov. Kasparov as white has just played Nf6
White has just played Nf6. So here we have to go through the candidate moves. The most obvious move would be to take the Knight with the pawn, what would then ensue? Is it safe (I haven’t yet tried this one)? Or do we need to move the Queen and if so to where? Are there alternatives.
And 3 more to think about.
Garry Kasparov vs. Smbat Lputian. Kasparov as black has taken a pawn with Nxe4
Garry Kasparov vs. Oleg Pavlenko. Kasparov has just taken a white Bishop with his move Bxc3
Garry Kasparov vs. Oleg Privorotsky. Kasparov as white moves Nh6
Having a good position in a game seems to me to become more important as I improve. It becomes increasingly difficult to snatch a piece for free or land an unexpected checkmate. Instead my tactics need to be more focussed on bettering my position to create opportunities. The other day I recorded the following game that was played by a couple of kids. I’ll quickly run through the it to get to a position that I thought was very interesting – a better position, with equal material, that highlighted the importance of pressing an advantage. The game went:
The game arrived at this point and each player has the same material. Despite this material equality Stockfish shows that white has a massive advantage (5+ points) with blacks best move being 24. …d4. I think it is quite valuable to study this position and to calculate through different candidate moves for both black and white. What are the best move?
I found this game fascinating because it shows how you can develop play well so that you can have a big advantage despite material equality. It also shows how carefully options must be considered to maintain any advantage. This game occurred at my Tuesday chess club and the International Master who runs it immediately spotted that 27.Rxh7 was wrong and suggested 26.Qg7 at a glance. This move maintains an advantage. If we go back to the position above
I have heard the comment ‘don’t make moves, make plans’ and I’m not sure I do this well enough. Typically I look at a position, choose a ‘likely’ plan of attack and move vaguely into position with some quick supportive calculation – a blitzy approach. What I’d like to do is to keep thinking concretely till I am happy with my plan. (I have done this to some extent in the Analysis section of the blog but I want to push this further – the correspondence chess is also helping me be more concrete). This means calculating better and visualising the result better. I’ll focus on the calculating since the visualisation aspect of this has been posted about already in ‘Blindfold Chess’ and ‘Full Board Nirvana’.
In an article on chess.com a GM called Gregory Serper suggests that you can improve your calculation by looking at high level games and he offers the game below and this advice: “You only know that there is an extremely complicated combination there, but nothing else . Give yourself 30-40 minutes and try to find the combo and calculate it as far as you can. Then write down all your findings and compare to the moves played in the game.” he continues and suggest that you “just re-play the game and try to guess it move-by-move” and offers this game after black’s 17th move. The game is appended at the foot of this post, the critical position that GM Serper suggests you calculate from is here. I would, in Luddite fashion, suggest setting this up on a board and writing down your thoughts.
But before I do the exercise above I wanted to look at my own game from Sunday (see my previous post) and work out what I should have calculated on my 27th move when the computer engine graph shows me blundering away my advantage. The position before my 27th move was this.
It is grim not improving so I have been seeking input from others. I posted a topic on chess.com titled ‘Help, I cant improve. Any tips?’ and I have in a short time received 15 responses which I am grateful for. The most popular suggestion so far is that I should analyse my own games. I do do this to some extent and I have shown this process on this blog but perhaps my analysis is not as deep as it should be.
I played in my Friday tournament and in my Sunday tournament this weekend – both are 1hr games with 30s increments. After both games I took the opportunity to sit down with my opponents and analyse the games. This was very helpful – it was also something I have rarely done. They were both much more skilled than me and their input was great, they were also able to go through the games by memory which I can’t do. It was especially interesting to hear them talk about what they thought I was trying to achieve and what they were worried about. They illustrated things I missed which would have been strong. It was also useful to hear about what they were considering.
What stood out for me was that they calculated each position more deeply.