I have a question concerning preparation for a specific opponent, and about move order.
I am preparing for a tournament game (club closed championship final, one game a week). The player I am facing always tries to play the Stonewall Dutch against 1.d4. The problem is, he knows my repertoire very well, and the last time we played he move ordered me into playing something I did not particularly like. As White against 1.d4 f5 or 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 I play systems based Bg5 and d5, against other more main stream openings I play 2.c4 and main lines. The problem I have is that I am being move ordered out it because after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 f5 I can’t play d5 and I don’t like Bg5 in this position. Is there anything I can do about this?
Dear Mr. rosadot,
Black has actually move-ordered himself into an inferior position since you have 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 f5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bf4 followed by e3 (NOT g3), Be2 or Bd3, 0-0, and White has a safe, pleasant edge. If Black eventually moves a Knight to e4, you can chop it (not mandatory!), move the f3-Knight after he recaptures, and crack the position with f2-f3.
I used to try for this via 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 but smart players know to respond with 3...e6 4.Nf3 Bb4! (Silman - V.Moskalenko, Pardubice 1994 continued 5.Qb3 c5 6.dxc5 Na6 7.Bd2 0-0 8.g3 Qe7 9.Bg2 Nxc5 10.Qc2 b6 11.0-0 Bb7 12.Nd5!? [offering a positional pawn sacrifice] 12…Bxd5 13.cxd5 Bxd2 14.Nxd2 with approximate equality, though I later managed to lose).
However, Mr.rosadot's opponent, with his "tricky" move order, is entering the dubious line right away!
Here’s the first recorded game with this White system:
J.Perlis - S.Tartakower, Vienna 1907
1.c4 f5 2.d4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6 7.c5 Bxf4 8.exf4 0-0 9.Bd3 b6 10.b4 a5 11.a3 Ne4 12.Qc1 Ba6 13.Ne5 Bxd3 14.Nxd3 Nd7 15.0-0 Qf6 16.Ne2 axb4 17.axb4 Rxa1 18.Qxa1 Rb8 19.b5! (19.f3 Nd2 20.Rd1 Nc4 21.b5 might be even more accurate) 19...Qd8 (19...bxc5 20.Qa7 Rd8 21.bxc6) 20.bxc6 Ndf6 21.Qa7 Ne8 22.Ne5 h6 23.Qf7+ Kh7 24.Qg6+ Kg8 25.Qxe6+ Kh7 26.Qxf5+ Kg8 27.Qf7+ Kh7 28.Nd7, 1-0. Not convincing, but it does highlight white’s space advantage, plus Tartakower’s scalp is nothing to sneeze at!
Here’s a game that shows White can play it for excitement:
E.Najer - S.Muhammad, Philadelphia 2006
1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.Nc3 d5 5.Bf4 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 Ne4 8.g4! (The generic 8.0-0 also favors White, but why not have a bit of fun?) 8…Qb6 9.Qc2 Na6 10.a3 Qa5 11.Ke2 (11.Rg1 Nb4 12.axb4 Qxa1+ 13.Ke2 Nxc3+ 14.bxc3 Qa3 15.gxf5 Bf6 16.fxe6 Bxe6 17.Bxh7 was another, highly promising, way to handle the position) 11...Nxc3+ 12.bxc3 dxc4 13.Bxc4 Nc7 14.gxf5 Nd5 15.Rhg1 Bf6 16.Bxd5 (16.Be5 looks even stronger) 16…cxd5 17.fxe6 Bxe6 18.Ng5 and White was clearly better but eventually botched it to a draw: 18…Qa6+ 19.Kd2 Bxg5 20.Rxg5 g6 21.h4 Rf8 22.Re5 Rf5 23.Qd3 Qc6 24.a4 a6 25.a5 Rxe5 26.Bxe5 Bf5 27.Qe2 Rc8 28.Ra3 Qe6 29.f3 Qe7 30.Rb3 Rc4 31.e4 Ra4 32.Ke3 dxe4 33.fxe4 Be6 34.Rb6 Rxa5 35.Qf2 Rxe5 36.dxe5 Qc5+ 37.Kf3 Qxc3+ 38.Kf4 Qc1+ 39.Qe3 Qf1+ 40.Kg5 Qf7 41.Qc5 h6+ 42.Kxh6 Qf4+ 43.Kh7 Qf7+, ½.
In general, there are two main ways for White to handle this line: developing white’s light-squared Bishop to e2 (this usually leads to safe positional plans via queenside or central play) or developing white’s light-squared Bishop to d3 (leading to riskier but highly promising attacking positions via a g2-g4 advance).
We’ll take a glance at both by looking at a couple of Drozdovskij’s games (he favors the Be2 placement), then at the attacking plans by Savchenko (he tends to favor Bd3).
Y.Drozdovskij (2561) - M.Narmontas (2310), Warsaw 2006
1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Be7 (In Y.Drozdovskij - E.Can  Beijing G/25 + 5, 2008 Black gave 6…Bd6 a try. However, after 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 b6 9.Qc2 [9.Ne5 was strong] 9...Bb7 10.Bxd6 Qxd6 11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.Rac1 [12.e4 Nxc3 13.bxc3 is obviously good for White] 12...Nd7 13.Rfd1 Kh8 14.h3 White had a clear positional advantage, though he went on to lose a dead won position) 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 Ne4 9.Nxe4 fxe4 10.Nd2 Bf6 11.f3 Bxd4 12.exd4 Rxf4 13.fxe4 Rxf1+ 14.Qxf1 Nd7 (14...dxc4 15.Qf2 b5 16.Rf1 Qe7 17.e5 [17.Qg3] 17...Na6 18.Ne4 Bd7 [18...Bb7 19.Nd6] 19.Nf6+ gxf6 [19...Kh8 20.Nxd7 Qxd7 21.Qf8+] 20.exf6 Qf7 21.Bh5 Qxh5 22.f7+ Kf8 23.Qf6) 15.Qf2 Qe7 16.Rf1 b6 17.cxd5 (Stronger was 17.Qg3 Ba6 18.Qc7 dxc4 19.Bxc4 Bxc4 20.Nxc4 Rf8 21.Ne5 Rxf1+ 22.Kxf1 Qf6+ 23.Nf3 Qf7 24.Qxc6 and white’s winning) 17...exd5 18.Bd3 (18.Qg3 was still the way to go) 18...Bb7 19.e5 Rf8 20.Nf3 c5 21.Bb5 cxd4 22.Bxd7 Qxd7 23.Qxd4 Qb5 24.Re1 Ba6 25.e6 Qc5 26.b4 Qd6 27.Qe5 Qe7 28.h3 Bb7 29.Nd4 g6 30.Rc1 Rc8 31.Rxc8+ Bxc8 32.Qb8 Qf8 33.e7 Qe8 34.Nb5 Kg7 35.Qe5+, 1-0.
S.Savchenko (2560) - P.Hoffmann (1546!), Bad Zwesten 2004
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 f5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Be7 (the game S.Savchenko – W.Friedrich (2108), Bad Woerishofen 2004 saw Black try 6…Bd6 but after 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 Bxf4 9.exf4 Ne4 10.Ne5 Nxc3 11.bxc3 White had a clear advantage. This quickly turned into a rout: 11…Qh4 12.g3 Qh6 13.Rb1 g5 14.fxg5 Qxg5 15.f4 Qg7 16.Qe2 Nd7 17.Nxd7 Qxd7 18.Rfe1 Qc7 19.cxd5 cxd5 20.c4 Bd7 21.cxd5 exd5 22.Qe5 Qa5 23.Bb5 Rae8 24.Qxd5+ Kh8 25.Rxe8 Rxe8 26.Qxd7 Re1+ 27.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 28.Kg2, 1-0) 7.h3!? (S.Savchenko - E.Schmittdiel (2483) Bundesliga 2004 went 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Qc2 Ne4 9.g4 Qa5 10.Ke2 Na6 11.a3 Nxc3+ 12.bxc3 dxc4 13.Bxc4 b5 14.Ba2 Nc7 15.Bxc7 Qxc7 16.gxf5 and White won in 28 moves) 7…Ne4 8.g4 g5 (8...Qa5 made more sense) 9.Be5 Bf6 (Losing. Black is very much in the game with 9...0-0) 10.gxf5 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Bxe5 12.Nxe5 h5 13.Be2 Rh7 14.Bxh5+ Ke7 15.Bg6 Qh8 16.Bxh7 Qxh7 17.f6+ Kf8 18.Qg4 Qh4, 1-0. Not a moment too soon! White was about to play 19.Ng6+.
To sum up, you should pay your opponent to continue playing that “unfortunate” move-order – I won’t tell him that he’s tricking himself, and you shouldn’t either! In fact, after wiping him with this line in a game, you should tell him, “The variation I used isn’t very good, but I didn’t know what to do. I suppose I’ll have to play the main line Dutch in future.” Then beat him with this variation again!
I am a 35-year-old player, rated between 1900 and 2000. I’m trying to improve my game, partly by analyzing my own games, partly by reading chess books and playing through the moves in them, and other things. My question is: how do I concentrate outside a game situation the same way I do during games?
During an actual OTB game, I am very concentrated, I can calculate lines, sense danger, notice things about a position. But when I do this on my own at home, I see absolutely nothing (even in post mortems, my opponents still find good lines, while I forget what I saw during the game and immediately hang pieces all over the place).
So I play through games from books, take for granted that the ‘!’ moves were good, play through the analysis but without realizing what the threats are, why certain moves were necessary ... it’s as if it’s a completely different game from the one I play when there is an opponent and the clock is ticking.
Is this normal, and not much of a problem? Is this a matter of doing it more often? Am I too old? Would I be better off playing games online or against a computer? Why am I writing a whole paragraph of questions?
This is a more specific instance of the general question “how do I analyze games?” Everybody says we should, and it sounds like a great idea, but nobody has written a guide “how to analyze a chess game” as far as I know.
Dear Mr. Scarblac:
You posted this question a long time ago, but due to its length I put off answering it (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: long letters scare me by making me think that hard work is around the corner!). The shorter and more concise questions are, the greater the chance that I’ll answer it quickly.
Okay, first answer: You are NOT too old! So let’s lay that idea to rest (I reached my chess prime at 36).
Many players find that they are poor at post mortems, and I wouldn’t place too much emphasis if the same is true in your case. After a long, hard, tension filled game, it’s extremely difficult to continue to concentrate. Instead you want to relax and look at what transpired, with much of your brain already running off for a well-deserved vacation. So if you hang pieces during after game analysis, or completely forget what in the world you were thinking during actual play, laugh at the absurdity of it all and solider on.
Conversely, some players are post mortem gods, and appear to see everything. However, once they sit down to a real, long time control game, they fall apart due to not being able to handle the stress, or because they can’t stand thinking for ages over a single move (they prefer blitz).
The question of how to find the motivation to fully concentrate in any situation (basic study, post mortems, etc.) is individual-based and defies a general answer. Many people can only show their best if they are competing in some fashion. More serene settings don’t get those competitive juices flowing, and thus allow you to lag. Having your wife apply an electrified cattle prod to various parts of your body if she notices a vacant look in your eye might prove effective (works for me … how do you think I’m able to answer these questions from week to week?), while others find serious study to be such an onerous chore that nothing can get them past the usual lizard-brain state.
Finally we come to your final, “How do I analyze a chess game” question. I’ve discussed this in past articles, but in your case I would recommend the following (you can do this with your own games, or with grandmaster games):
Play over the game quickly. Then (NO COMPUTERS!) go back to the beginning and start to question each and every move you or whoever played the game made. Do this for both sides, challenging everything you see and demanding to understand why a move or series of moves was played. Write down all your thoughts as you’re going, until the whole game has been analyzed. If you feel yourself weakening, stop and continue it another time or day when you’re feeling in the mood. Don’t be in a hurry!
When it’s all done, either show it to your chess teacher – making sure to write down his criticisms, or go over it with Rybka or Fritz, also writing down the machine’s non-stop scolding. It’s better to go the chess teacher route because knowing another person will see your work will inspire you to do as good on the initial job as possible (in other words, you’re letting your ego inspire you to wake up and concentrate). A computer doesn’t generate the same emotions since you can simply turn it off, step on it, or shrug your shoulders and accept that we’re now slaves to tiny bits of software. Also, a computer’s “comments” are often unintelligible and, other than pointing out tactical hits, won’t prove useful at all.
In either case, you’re not done yet! Once you have the teacher’s or computers comments/recommendations/criticisms written down, go over everything he/she/it said and strive to challenge it! Don’t accept anything that you were told, until you have gone over it with a fine-tooth comb and either realized the wisdom bestowed on you, or return to the source with your misgivings.
THAT is how you milk a game for everything it’s worth! Personally, a nap sounds infinitely more alluring, but to each his own. Speaking of naps, I’m signing out and heading for the bed.