This post is about game 3 of my weekly long format tournament. The best players in the world prepare for their matches and you hear of great players being excellent at preparation – Anand being one such player. By preparation it seems to mean knowing what your opponent is likely to play and often this means what openings are they comfortable with. So I decided to get into the spirit of competing and I looked up my opponents games. He is rated in the mid 1600 and was primarily a 1.d4 player often followed by a 2.Nf6 and this was a problem for me because I don’t have a clue how to play against this. His openings also seemed to turn into ‘London Systems’ – see my tab under ‘Analysis’ on the home page. I’ve almost never played 1.d4 myself and the games I play against 1.d4 seem closed and frustrating although I probably win as many as I lose. So I had a week to prepare against my opponent and as luck would have it one of my favourite chess.com video makers, a GM called Simon Williams, had just prepared a video series on attacking ways to play against 1.d4. In his series he was advocating the ‘English Defense’ which goes something like this.
I went through the 5 videos on this opening but in the last video GM Williams talks about alternate responses from white and includes the possibility of 2.Nf6 and in this situation he advocates a similar defence called the ‘Classical Dutch Defense’. This defense goes like this.
The ideas are that the Knight moves to e4 the Bishop to f6, the Knight swaps of and the d, e and f pawns move forward to allow the Bishop on c8 to come into the attack. I studied this a bit and thankfully my opponent played his favourite opening. Here is my game.
I enjoyed the game and the opening seemed to have worked but I was let down by tactics (Qxh3) and my positional play was scrappy later on. Next week I play as black against someone rated 1417, other than that I haven’t been able to find any of her games but at least I have more armour against 1.d4.
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.
I am currently playing a number of correpondence games. Five on Chess.com, six on the International Correspondence Chess Federation’s webserver, five on a webserver called Scheming Minds and, my favourites, six postal ICCF games that I previously mentioned. This is, in my opinion, too much. I have however nearly stopped playing blitz games so that has freed up some chess headspace.
Chess.com is not affiliated with FIDE as far as I know and the games, though they are mini tournaments, are casual. I am treating my games here lightly and will often move on intuition. I do sometimes take the time to use their ‘game explorer’ facility to check my thoughts on openings. My rating here, after 21 games (10w, 3d, 8l), is 1515 and my average opponent is rated 1520. Two games were against a player rated 1707 who aborted his games so my rating is inflated but it is encouraging to see that deeper thought has yielded better results.
My ICCF webserver games are only part way through. My first game was very encouraging and I felt very much in control and won. My next two were losses and I have three more that are ongoing. I don’t have a rating yet for this but I have googled my opponents and they have reasonable chess net presences so I think they are quite good.
While looking at the ICCF website to choose games I noticed a team called Scheming Minds. I googled them and discovered that they are a webserver based correspondence club and a member of the British Federation for Correspondence Chess. It is hard to resist a club called ‘Scheming Minds’ so I have joined as a trial member. The name comes from The Adventure of the Retired Colourman By Conan Doyle in which Sherlock Holmes notes that “Amberley excelled at chess – one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind.”, there website is here: http://www.schemingmind.com/default.aspx . It has been good and I have chatted with a few players there and it seems like a friendly place. I started playing fairly seriously but that level of thought is slipping.
My plan is to wind down to 12 postal games through the ICCF and six webserver games through Scheming Minds – which is still probably too much. I will use Chess.com for their huge amount of information and to blitz games occassionally.