Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chessville: REVIEWING Games After a Tournament


Reviewing your own games is the most important part of the training process. Why it is important and how to do it have been discussed in numerous books and publications. I have written my share in my books – Chess Exam and Training Guide and Chess Exam and Training Guide: Tactics.
In this article I want to show some highlights from the recent review of the games played by my student - he is retired, enjoys chess and is been making a steady progress (rated now about 1100).
My focus when reviewing the games is on identifying critical positions worth discussing and then highlighting concepts and ideas in hope that they will stick in the memory of my student.
I see a very little benefit to simply point their errors and provide better moves. In fact, running the games through Fritz can easily do this. However, I am skeptical that knowing the move that you should have played will help you find it if similar situation occurs in another game 2 days or 3 months later.
Instead, I am attempting to identify some general principles that, if understood, can help the student to find the optimal plan and best move in a similar situation. Let’s look at some of the examples...
Assess each position, find moves candidates and the best variation. Write it down. Give it your best shot before proceeding to the answers (below).

#1 After 3.Pc3. Black to Move. #2 After 17.exf5. Black to Move.
#3 After 17.Bd5 Black to move #4 After 14…Nb4. White to Move.
#5 After 11.NxNc6. Black to Move. #6 After 13.Pb3. Black to Move.


<1> Black’s response was 3…Pe6. Having an opportunity to grab space in the middle via 3…Pe5 or just continue normal development via 3…Nf6, my student played this ‘slow’ move that also blocked his Bc8. Why?
Because his favorite opening for Black against 1.d4 is a Semi-Slav where, no matter what White does, Black plays d5-c6-e6-Nf6..
So, facing an unfamiliar setup, Black played a move that would lead to a familiar pawn structure. Unfortunately, in this position (without the White Pd4) this was a waste of time and 5 moves later Black played the Pe5 anyway.
Use common sense when facing an unfamiliar opening rather than automatically making moves you would normally play in that (or similar) opening.
<2> (Same game as #1) In one of the prior lessons with this student, we have discussed a possible problem with advancing the P to f5. Specifically – the fork after Pg4. Unfortunately, Black realized that he is facing a similar predicament only after he already had played 16…Pf5.
So, what to do now? The direct 17…Rxf5 runs into 18.Pg4. Other moves leave Black down a pawn and his position in ruins. Well, Black played the irrational 17…Nef4 and lost very quickly. Instead, he should’ve picked the least damaging option – 17…Rxf5 (anyway!). After 18.Pg4 Rxf3 19.Bxf3 Nhf4, Black has a decent compensation for the lost exchange. White pieces are disorganized, the rooks have no open files and the K is weak. If you are interested, practice this position against a friend or a computer.
When facing unfortunate circumstances, don’t give up prematurely. Seek opportunities to sacrifice material for some positional compensation. An especially popular way out is an exchange sacrifice. In many instances a minor piece isn’t that much worse than a rook.
<3> Notice how outnumbered White is on the K-side. In situations like this seek ways to remove the last defenders even via a sacrifice.
Black played the excellent 17…Nf3+! 18.Kh1 (18.Pxf3 Bxf3 and 19…Qg4+ or 19…Qh3 with mate.)
Now what to do?
I hope you already had the best move prepared!
Black to Move
Unfortunately, Black nearly spoiled his excellent play by rushing with 18…Qh5. White could have played a calm 19.Bf4 maintaining a defendable position. Instead White played 19.Ph3? and resigned after 19…Bxh3.
To avoid all the unnecessary excitement, Black should have started with 18…Qe5 forcing 19.Pg3, and then 19…Qh5. The mate is unavoidable – 20.Ph4 Nxh4 …
Even when you have a dominating position, at least a minimal calculation is required. Consider your opponent’s possible responses before making your move in order to avoid unexpected defenses.
<4> Black is threatening fork after 15…Nc2. By playing 15.Re2, White addressed the immediate threat. However, not only he wasted a move for that, he also placed his R in the awkward position, subject to future harassment of Black Bs.
Instead, White should have continued his development – 15.Bg5 or 15.Bf4. These moves indirectly address Black’s threat. In case of 15…Nc2? White has 16.Rc1 and the N is pinned and will be lost after 16…Rc8 17.Re2.
Seek tactical refutation of opponent’s threats before settling for a direct defense.
<5> Black played weak 11…Qc6 and reasoned it by the need to over protect the Nc5. Well, this is not a strong reason as the N is sufficiently protected and has squares available in case it needs to retreat.
Having the P on c6 would enable Black to strengthen the center, eventually gain control of the d4 square, get pressure on the b-file, develop the B to a6 etc…
The starting point (default option) in the decision making process here should have been – “take with the P towards the center.”
<6> Same game as #5. White correctly declined the offer of trading Qs and asked the Black Q to leave. Black had to pull the Queen back to d7, but instead he continued his ‘active’ Q moves:
Unfortunately, after 14.Bc1 Qa5 (what else?) 15.b4, the adventures of the Black Q cost Black the N.
Always be very careful with your Queen, as it can be easily harassed, especially early in the game.

Each of the above examples gave us a chance to discuss general issues that are fairly common. Hopefully, my student will be able to use this general ideas in the future games.

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