Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Games I played ( Boston Chess Congress 2015)

For me, an adult with a full life outside of chess, there never seems to be enough time to prepare for a tournament, let alone any rust that forms after any long hiatus. I set aside the “poverty mind” , and signed up to play in a section higher than a comfort zone. This placed me 2nd from the bottom of the list. I knew I was going to take some lumps but I approached it as a learning experience  for the following:

1.      See what I recall from my past training
2.      Test the recent training with the Chess Notes methods
3.      Walk away with new directions to study
4.      Have fun

Before I get into each of the games, I thought I’d summarize the experience. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for the tournament directors, Chris Bird and Bob Messenger. They kept the pace and their cool with the largest turn out to date for this annual event.  I won my first two rounds against players 200 points higher than I was. I was saying to myself “ when is the rust going to start showing?” but alas, it showed in the third round of the day as the time limit converged with the rest of the 3 day players as I entered into the 2-day schedule.  My morning round 4 the following day allowed me a great position in the KID but I couldn’t put a plan together if my life depended on it and gave the initiative away.  By round 5 my stamina was failing and I settled for a draw.

Round 1:

I had done a tremendous amount of recent work on the Slav defense  in preparation for this event. This was my weakest area and thus I spent the most time bringing it up.  The chess notes seemed to actually help as I felt a sense of comfort and familiarity with the position through to move 9. I had some clear plans and ideas.  I was granted a great outpost for my knight and I pounced on a tactic winning me material in the middle game. 

( I'm having trouble getting the embedded code from to display the games here at blogspot. You may be better just going to my blog for these: )

Round 2:

This was bit more of a straightforward QGD with a Carlsbad pawn structure. There was nothing recent in my studies that I covered on this. I was able to conjure up from my long term memory  the ideas around this pawn structure. I think the reason why this was an easier recall, was that a while back I studied these pawn structures quite regularly, went over games that had this pawn structure, and encountered them quite regularly and successfully.  This felt like putting on an old glove.  I knew about minority attacks, IQPs and center pawn pushes for these structures. 

Round 3:

I played the black pieces against an Advanced  Caro-Kann. I’ve struggled with this variation in the past. I simply hadn’t prepared well for this.  I managed to  hang on against a queen side attack I could have easily prevented had I played it correctly.  But being the third game of the day and getting bleary eyed, after the attack I castled because I was more anxious about leaving my king in the center than looking at the piece mobility of my opponent. It allowed the attack to shift to the kingside. White having more mobility I couldn’t swing my pieces over in time. Then I blundered a piece and resigned immediately after.  This is where the rust of an old dog started to show.

Round 4:
Oddly enough, I realized the loss in round 3 broke my momentum.  I had the white pieces as I walked into a King’s Indian defense.  I got an advanced pawn center, one I used to be familiar with but struggled in the past to have solid results ( unlike the QGD).  Part of my timid play could be partially a result of my “fighting spirit” partially broken from the round 3 loss. However, I’ve struggled with fully understanding  this pawn structure, it’s nuances and proper plans for white and what to watch out for from Black. In this game, I found myself playing more passive, not knowing what to do with the space advantage. Is this because I am too “at home” in the cocoon of a cramped position as black? 

Round 5:
I was familiar with the first few stumps of the Rubinstein variation of the Nimzo-Indian to get to a playable middle game.  But I struggled again with coming up with a plan. I could see my opponent was having the same issues. So when he offered a draw, I didn’t want to blow it. With tired eyes, I accepted and shook his hand. 


Every single one of my opponents was higher rated.  That meant finishing with a 2.5 score gained me almost 60 rating points.  Not bad for a getting back into the game.  I think there is some merit doing the chess notes for securing chunks in early positional understanding BUT… and this is a big BUT… I really need to be more disciplined on following up with the drilling with these notes in order for them to be effective.   I am giving myself until February  to see whether the hand written notes  is going to continue or if I go back to making my drills in a database.  On one hand I feel like I get a deeper understanding of the subject I am studying if I do this by hand and not assisted with the computer.  However, I am more likely to do drills (which reinforces the ideas)  using a computer. I may compromise and do initial studies with the “Cornell” chess notes methods with the intent of creating drill diagrams in a database I can take with me on my tablet.

Another thing that came out is how I really need to improve my ability  or, more so, my comfort level with playing the White pieces of an Indian defense where I can get more space.  It’s back to reviewing Zurich 1953. 

Did I even get to any endgames that required special attention? No, I was already lost in one N+R vs N+R ending.  I will prioritize my next round of studies on game studies mentioned above. 


Unknown said...

ok, first apologies for not communicating better. It is no small feat to have gained ELO and placed halfways in the list, Playing up on a tournament.

I have to say, your blog had an interesting effect on me. at first I thought, I'm going to have to congradulate George on his good games. however, as I read it over a few times, I found it more and more thought provoking. Indeed I think it raises interesting questions on two fronts!

first, you've written all along since you got back to chess at your attempts to shake the rust out of your game. and now after not such a long time, you game and form seem to be surging forward!

Your worry since coming back has been rust, but my earnest fear is reinforcing mistakes. I hear the calling of tactic circles,etc. but isn't it true that incessant quantities of carefully written offensive puzzles might create a carelessness. In fact, I worry that obsessed adults aren't quietly creating impassable barriers in their game, as they take their own limited understanding and re-inforce it over and over with puzzle after puzzle. Is it possible, that you break from constant circles and tactical puzzles have given you fresh perspective on tactical opportunities?... this is my great worry, as I insist (to myself) that not a day can pass without puzzles and that I generally grind on , at least an hour + per day of chess study.

Perhaps even the kids prove it? since when have you heard of a high rated kid that wasn't coached extensively. like playing an instrument, nearly every kid IS coached. and nearly every coach, takes steps to enlighten and push kids beyond their mistakes.

.... and yet coaching is HARD. the last one I had has given up on coaching. at least two other guys have not responded to questions about doing sessions with me, and to make it worse, the one guy is a semi-professional. I figure, with him, he has a Lot less interest in a low rated adult who will clearly struggle to go to tournaments and thus will improve slowly, Elo wise... (cont)

Unknown said...

ok, next thought. I know you've talked about it before. but I'm not Entirely clear how one can integrate your focus on pawn positions to the whole of your chess training.

With my training at least, I see three general areas.

one is in tactic and endgame puzzles,
another is in slow thoughtful chess playing. (for me this is best expressed by playing's 'online' chess- 3days per move).
Lastly is to cover anotated games and/or follow other important primers on middlegame strategy.

its just been a bit difficult for me to find varieties of any of the three in specific Pawn position varieties.

if you , for example, go into the instructive book; silman's "the amateur mind"- his game is not categorized or presented in terms of "important concept in the QGD- cambridge springs varation" pg 24.

. Even in regards to serious play, you go into a serious game hoping to get into the complexities of a meran variation of the semislav, as black. and white unexpectedly veers clear out of GM theory.

perhaps you retort,that the pawn position is yet the same. yet a game of careful strategic fighting of e4 is quite different than that of when some patzer plays an aimless b6; that is prolly a big mistake (pawn wise), but not after your next blunder...

in short. you reported in each of your game where you stood with the opening you opps went into. but in all my training, by and large most of my opening knowledge doesn't get advanced. I know a few more words and ideas than I did before. but most of the concepts in the anthologies seem more like fundemental concepts of positional chess. and not neccesarily so tied to any of my openings.

I'm thinking either you've gone MUCH further than me; and connecting positional ideas to chess openings are where your at, or perhaps I'm doing this wrong and missing an important dimension to my studying.

if the latter is true, should I be skipping stuff that I'm not likely to see- like skipping e4/e5 games in my anothologies becuase I don't play e4/e5.

or maybe your using your pawn positions to understand quite a broad reportoire.

again, somehow your posts really generate alot of thought for me.

Anonymous said...

I am where Jason is, with my approach to studying. I improve most by going over games where I can cover up and guess the move. Some more tactics and endgame tactics I am thinking of going over as well.

Yes, Blunderprone you give me a lot of food for thought as well, it's like you leave us staring out, still not quite sure what to believe, but you stop us in our tracks and make us question what we believe about chess improvement

I don't want to say anything about your system because it is working for you, and largely because you make it work!

More or less you are picking up where you left off at with this pawn structures, tabiyas, opening theory, which I wish I could do as well, but I have been less at that database position than I once was in the past. Databases were even better in the past because fewer games meant only the important ones! Nowadays it's more like obfuscation by too much information.

I remember how I could use a line from a DB to get a +- advantage or even ++-, and then not convert, and so the whole process felt too artificial. Like, okay, I just tricked Arnold Schwarzenneger, but now he is going to kick by @ss because he is Arnold Schwarzenneger and I am not. That, my fried, is a hollow feeling. Of course it's just as bad to do any kind of chess studying and then lose to some new kid who possesses dumb-luck in spades (i.e, can win by moving faster).

Your method is doing what it is supposed to be doing, it is working, you are getting a playable even if only equal position, but then it's the big thumper time, what to do next once you've got that position. It was like that for a few years ago as well, your studies got you the positions even then. The difference then was that you felt more let down that that's all that that did for your game/position. Since you've come back, you are more accepting that a player still has to figure what needs to be done from there.

I still try to decipher both imbalances, and the speed fof both players' attacks. If a strategic pattern from some Master game gives me an idea of what to do then so much the better - seems to have worked for Magnus. ;-)

BlunderProne said...

@Jason and LinuxGuy,
Studying pawn structures in the past has given me a bit more of a positional understanding based on the skeletal pawn structure. Since my repertoire for White is that of 1.d4, I found it very hard getting in my head proper ideas for each of the defenses I typically face with this queen pawn advance. I was getting tripped up between Grunfeld, KID and Benoni and when I realized that if I could understand the basics of the pawn structures that come out of them, then I can have a better chance at understanding the principle variations ( or what should be primary move choices) given these schemas. Sure enough I found commonality between KID and Benoni for instance when I played an advanced d5 pawn chain ( c4,d5,e4 and f3). I think it helped me put together the ideas behind the various responses to 1.d4 and simplified my understanding.
It didn’t eliminate the variations and knowing sharp lines but it did create a starting point. I used to play a “system” as an opening. There are a variety of those out there. The London System was my early main choice for White and made opening preparation rather easy. I looked at others like the Colle, the King Indian’s attack and even the Veresov. But I liked the London. The problem I found was that against stronger players, I really had a tame system and didn’t know how to break it open in my favor. So I ventured off that system path and was in search of attempting to make a system out of more complicated repertoire that gave me a little more mileage across the board.
Systemizing sharper openings is not recommended I found and is a rather daunting task. But having a base in understanding general themes based on pawn structures, helps me understand the games of each of these openings a little better.

In reality, I am doing the chess notes thing but find I am not as disciplined as I like to be because drilling isn’t as easy as a computer application. I do tactics as well… still. I’ve been reviewing a lot of videos on related to my openings with GM’s who are good at explaining. I am also using a database but I have to agree with LinuxGuy in that there is a boat load of crap games out there and I can easily get mislead of certain lines until I look up and its from a scholastic match of U1600 players. How the hell does this make its way into a database? So I have to be more diligent and use proper filters with ratings at least at the expert level. I use my chess engines to get to certain lines in my openings and I practice from that point. There is a lot more I would like to do ( endgames for instance) but it takes more time, less distractions and me becoming a hermit ( which is not going to happen…again… if my wife has a say in all this.)
I do go over whole games and that has become part of what I call my deliberate practice routine. I pick a game of interest. I go over it quickly, then I go over it slowly with the notes and variations. I want to get to the point where I do it a third time and try to guess the moves… just not there yet. It’s a goal.
Thanks for the input and things for me to ponder.


Unknown said...

BP, first- it is amazing to me how similar our reportoire really is. like yourself I was a systems kind of guy- playing colle as white for a while. I got some limited coaching and was Strongly discouraged to stick with the colle. he Felt it was limiting to play an opening where you played out the same many moves irregardless of the opponent; instead, analyzing your opps play and seeking to make the most of his weaknesses will help you improve your chess.

(so my move is indeed d4 d5 c4. my black answer to d4 if pretty similar. if I were to meet someone with similar inclination we'd almost certainly be playing the tarrash. however most online opponents go for the tactical complications of Bb5.)

to a point, this concept goes against the very essence of learning grandmaster lines.

on the other hand, and as much as Linuxguys approach resonates- my issues with the opening falters at 'french opening'.

the French opening is my big answer to e4 and frankly I'm not willing to switch. I've put in a lot of play into it, and I see it as something of pychological surprise to the players who like to play e4. esp online, most of those guys really want to play e4e5 Bc4! or other similarly hot aggressive chess. many of them realize when they come to a well built french that they can't just aim all at the f7 and look for mate to follow -- even if the normal King side defender (Nf6) is pushed out of the way by e5.

unfortunately, though. practically results aren't so good on the french. in computer play, I'm notably weaker. some blitz opponents get the best of me, as I strive to get some counterplay on the queen side. those that aren't shocked and awed can sometimes shore up my faltering counterplay, exchange a little and get back to the tactical suprises they like so much.

All the normal objections arise as I try to focus on strengthening myself in a major openings choice.

I particularly feel like basic annotations like "logical chess" and hiesmans " the most instructive chess games", are important to go through. though None of them specifically address any of my weaknesses in the opening.

so try to read this right. I'm really not sure about how to get a better handle on my opening. my inclinations are to do as linux suggests. but we are in very different places him and I. I have read your study ideas with great interest. At the same time all linux's ideas apply. limited time for maximum bang. and I have made the CC chess something of a personal hallmark of my program.

I also want to lay out to you and anyone who reads this blog. I think the best way to handle an opening is to play a careful CC on the opening of choice.

I don't know if you play's turn based chess, but I think it would be instructive to me play the French, advance variation of it with someone. Slowly. I'd return the favor in an opening of his/her choice.

I would prefer that over going through db games, guessing the moves, in the end- I think I should be THAT with annotations for maximum retention.

BlunderProne said...


For Black I picked the Slav and Caro-Kann because of similar pawn structures to my original "london System" ...I even toyed with the Baltic defense ( London System with colors reversed).

I might be open to playing you on with a themed opening like the Advanced French. It's always good to mix it up I think. Similar concepts to when I encounter the advanced Caro-Kann.

Anonymous said...

I play the Advanced French, as you know from reading my blog. In some ways, the French is a sort of limited opening (not as limited later on in the game, naturally) because White can simply grab so much space that the lines coming from the opening are almost known even to me, who hasn't quite studied it so much yet (have yet to crack open my two books from Sveshnikov on it).

Master Bloomer beat me as Black in Blitz last week, but that's mainly, I feel, because I let him get in ..Nc6-a4-c4. In a slow game as White, you disallow what you don't like, and it simply doesn't appear on the board, but in blitz it's easy to overlook one simple thing and then your position as White is washed up (moreso that in semi-open or open games). The Advanced French is this beautiful house of cards that either tumbles over or works "in spades".

I'm ordering a bunch more puzzle books on Amazon right now and am going to focus more on puzzles than I have been in the past couple years.

I still have a chess DB on DOS on old box only setup for that, and it has some killer lines/games that are crucial even today. Fischer went back and read the old MCO's and studied old master games such as all of Anderson's, and said he learned a lot from the old theory. As theory progresses, my feeling is that it dulls. Once you had all of these "new in chess" type of sharp ideas, but not antidotes are probably known at the top level (not that they would remember them, naturally), and so there is probably more a tendency to play like Magnus or Ulf Andersson.

I sort of screwed up in my Thursday game because I was thinking too much about pawn structure on move 10, and after the game even wanted to ask Blunderprone for his advice on the pawn-structure, which is better for Black(?) to the point that I missed that the move contained the elementary immediate tactic (which I saw but "overlooked" because I had "strategy on the brain" in that position).

Someday I will get my database act together, but it will naturally be with scid and Linux! :-D

Anonymous said...

Speaking of deliberate practice, I agree that going over games and covering up the moves of the winning side (much like with Pandolfini's column) is immensely useful, and that the more you go over games, over time, the more you extract possibly, because your understanding or come from is at a new place by then.

I laughed when I read the comment that Botvinnik made regarding this game (the original quote is in the book Russian Silhouttes by Sosonko) where Botvinnik interrupted a training session because a young GM was not familiar with the concepts from one of his games:

What's crazier is that the first 19 moves were also repeated in this game of Botvinnik's

That is just messed-up good. hehe.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Soltis latest hardcover book on Botvinnik doesn't even include this game with Yuriev!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the Yuriev game is absolutely beautiful.

Tomasz said...


I do not want to sound rude, but I think you may focus too much on the opening part. I do not say it is not important, but probably (most of) your games are decided by simple tactics (or even blunders). If not, the second guess is that you have no plan and you are puzzled what should be played after the opening is over. Is it true?

Why do I say this? I am one of the rarest example of chess player (or rather chess patzer!) that has not possed an opening repertoire since I started playing chess in 1997. Of course If I would have some solid chess repertoire I would be probably a weak expert strength (2100-2150) now.

Witout having an opening repertoire I achieved a chess rating of about 1850-1900. From my experience it is needed when you are about 1600-1700 rated player. Before this stage it is not that efficient as you should try playing using more tactical tricks and some planning (and of course the basics of endgame is a must).

I hope you get what I mean - I do not disregard your methods of work (practice and study chess), but I want to emphasize that unless you are 1650-1700 rated player, the opening is not THAT important as most amateur players may think.