Saturday, June 11, 2011

Into the Lion's den: How I beat a Candidate Master

First A quick check in with the Knight’s Errant. Looking across the interweb, and the Knight’s Errant Revival seems to have lost some steam with exception to the energizer bunny otherwise known as Empirical Rabbit ( . I see he’s still sharpening his tactical skills through scientific analysis. As for myself, I shifted from doing exercises from CT-Art to Convektica’s Strategy 2.0 puzzles and do about 10 a day. These are more along the lines of “find the right strategy” but are mostly tactical in nature.

I’ve been working more on understanding Pawn structures and looked at several videos here on as well as picked up an out of print copy of Andy Soltis’ book Pawn Structure Chess and devoured it.

I am training for the upcoming World Open in Philly at the end of the month. Since I can’t afford lessons from a master, I decided to do the next best thing, play in the open section at my club for the Month of May and June. Every week is a lesson.

My first encounter with a Master in the Open section came at the hands of a 2300 player. It was an advanced Caro Kann, and I played a little too timid not understanding the advanced e-pawn chain structure fully. Had I known then, what I know now, I would have played 6…Qb6 to begin putting pressure on White’s d4. Then I failed to castle and chased ghosts instead. But hey, I got a good lecture after the game from my gracious opponent. Here is this sloppy game.

Fast forward to last week, by this time, I had played 3 games in May against strong players ( masters and experts) and absorbed their wisdom following post game analysis. I was also doing my background activity of learning the pawn structures most common in my games. I made notes and diagrams with ideas behind them. I set up positions and played against the computer to practice playing these positions so I could be comfortable “knowing” the position enough so I wouldn’t chase ghost. I did my daily exercises with the strategy CD and signed up for the open section again at my strong local chess club.

My goal was to reach a playable and familiar position I understood coming out of the opening and into the middle game. My opponent was a Candidate Master( at one time in his life he was beyond USCF 2200). He had a history of playing slightly odd opening s with move orders out of whack to throw people out of the comfort zone.

I had Black and played 1..c6 following his King pawn advance. He plays an odd variant of the Panov-Botvinick attack with 2.c4. My head was like “ I must support d5… Can I play it? Usually the knight comes out” ..and I played first mistake on move 2…Nf6.

I never played the Alekhine Defense before but I soon had a feel for what this defense was like. After moving my knight for the 4th time off to a6, I was finally able to advance the d-pawn.

“ Ok, so much for familiar positions” I thought. But I looked again and realized that White was about to play an advanced e-pawn structure like my previous game. THIS TIME, I knew a little more about how to handle it. I got Qb6 in early and it made the master think for a long time. I had a plan of putting pressure on d4 and controlling the c-file. It helped in looking at his threats and prioritizing where I needed to play. Since I had more energy in the center and open file, I was able to follow through with my plan before my opponent had a chance to execute his. At one point he sacrificed a pawn to gain activity on the King side but I was able to see through this and defend well. As he started to run into time trouble, he gave me opportunities and I found myself actually up the exchange!

That is not to say I went without blundering. By move 40, my opponent’s clock was running REALLY low and I found myself getting caught up with the “quickening” where had I used my time and slowed down, I would have trapped his knight . At one point I put myself in a position where he could have equalized with a knight fork but he missed it too much to the amazement of some onlookers.

Bottom line, a point is a point. A point from a master is my first victory against such a strong opponent.

Lessons to walk away from this include:

-take my time, what’s the rush.

-Knowing pawn structures and what plans work best helps when traveling in unchartered territory.

-Keeping the pressure on a weakness causes more problems than actually taking that pawn or square.


Jerry said...

Congrats on the master scalp. Sounds like you are doing some good work. I recently finished working through Kotov's article on central pawn formations from The Art of the Middle Game, and I am now starting in on Soltis' Pawn Structure Chess.

castlerook said...

Congratulations!! Interestingly, at my last tournament (Lake George) I managed my first master scalp as well. Hopefully we'll both do well in Philly.

Great game. I'm curious, what was the time control?

LinuxGuy said...

Nice work on the victory, it looks as though he failed at navigating the time control successfully. ;-)

I went over ten tactics puzzles today, thanks to your suggestion. I discovered a way to improve my visualization/analysis, but one would have to look through my looong post to find it. hehe. It is already helping greatly.

Good luck at The World Open!! and whatever you do, don't get down on yourself after a loss. I got down on myself and then was strong in the first half of games, but one can't stay upset in a multi-hour game as that emotion wears one out.

Anonymous said...

impressive. Especially your invention of Alekhine theory against a strong player. Nice to see playing using principles worked.


Liquid Egg Product said...

Even if your opponent had found that fork at the end, your position was so good it's doubtful he could have won in any case.

Mucho congratulations on the scalp!

From the patzer said...

Congratulations on your win. I hope it will not be your first and only upset. Cross fingers and touching wood many impressive victories may follow.

I now have two blogs, the one you know already but started also with . Not sure if I will continue but for now both are still active.