# Thinking Your Way to Chess Mastery

• IM Nezhmet
• | Apr 25, 2010
• | 8784 views

We will use this game to understand the key steps to improvement:

Update: on May 22, 2010, I posted the solutions in this article (right next to the questions).

• Inspect
• Infer
• Double-Check
• Decide!

Inference (finding the candidate moves from the gathered factors in the Inspection) often means drawing upon experience.  I will provide a core bibliography so you can bootstrap your high-level experience with fantastic authors.

Here is the game we will cover in the first segment.  I always try to pick games with theoretical importance in the opening so this article can be safely cross-listed in both Openings and Strategy.  Clearly this cutting-edge Najdorf English Attack fits the bill.

In the first video segment (coming shortly) we focus on the Inspection phase.
Here is a recap of the first video's questions for you if you want to get a head-start.  They all pertain to the McShane-Chuchelov game given above.
Update 5/22/10:  Solutions posted along with questions.
Question 1.
How does black's choice in the game of 6...e5 compare to 6...e6?  What kind of players would prefer 6....e5 and what kind would prefer 6....e6?  Base your answer on an inspection of the position after each move.
Solution:  6....e5 donates the square d5 to white.  It is not yet a weakness because black can cover it enough times, and conceivably even go for the ...d6-d5 liberation later if white is not careful.  It establishes more central control than 6...e6.  However 6...e6 retains different options.  By keeping a "small center" typical of Scheveningens, black retains the option of both ...d5 and ....e5 later if white is not careful.  In particular, if white has pawns on e4 and f4, the move ...e5 can isolate white's pawn on e4.  The move ...e6 though lets white play later with the option of e4-e5 himself gaining space.  Kasparov favored ....e6 in various Karpov-Kasparov WC games. There is even the possibility of bringing the a-rook to e8 later, moving the knight from f6, and playing f7-f5 in certain situations to block white.  Modern players are split between the two moves; they are of equal value.    e6... more flexible.  e5... greater stake in the center.  Both can become very sharp.
Writser writes, "It seems to me that e5 is a move more suited for a player that wants to counterattack in a wild position, while e6 leads to a quieter position, perhaps preferred by more positional players."  I would disagree.  Both moves can be very sharp especially in opposite castling scenarios. No rest for the weary!
Elindauer writes, "e5 leaves a hole at d5, but has the upside of giving black more space and a better hold on the center.  The light square bishop in particular is freed with e5.  e6 keeps the pawn structure in tact, but at the cost of leaving black with very little space.  Play e5 if you like more wide open games and prefer to attack, play e6 if you prefer defensive maneuvering in tight spaces."
Well, in the ...e6 lines, the white square bishop gets out with b7-b5 and Bb7.  No issues there.  I would not call ...e6 defensive.  I'd call it counter-attacking.  Blak waits for the right timing and picks the right pawn break.  He in fact can't just passively sit around or he'll be steamrollered.  He needs to plan ahead and strive for aggressive counter-attack.  Check out the game Kosteniuk-Ehlvest for examples on this theme.  The e5 player must be careful not to donate d5 for a launch point for white pieces. This means he must be vigilant to keep it covered and also seek a moment for a later d6-d5 move, liberating his position.  Or, b7-b5-b4 pawn moves, to get the N/c3 away from d5 control.
Question 2.
Infer plans for white after 6....e5 and 6....e6.   What is your opinion of the relative strength of each move?
It's too early to call one or the other superior.  For white, after ...e5, he can play his Knight to b3 and then proceed with f3 and g4 (and castle long, the English attack, as in the game).  In some lines (not with WB on e3 already) white can quietly play it to f3 and castle short.  In those lines, b2-b3 and Bb2 often happens.  In this game, the  B is on e3 already so Nb3 is the move.
f2-f3 is not mandatory by any means and f2-f4 later usually leads to a situation of a backward d-pawn for black vs. a weak e4 pawn for white after e5xf4.  Svidler has experimented recently with f2-f4 (after Qd2 and O-O-O).
Question 3.   Inspect the position after McShane's Bf1-d3 move.  Who do you think has the best chances at this point?  Infer black's ideas based on the inspection.
Inspection:  Bd3 seems like a wasted move because when the N for black arrives on c4, the bishop most likely will have to take it.  Nevertheless, white is just trying to clear the back rank so his rooks can operate more effectively behind his pawns.  Black has committed no obvious errors and has no structural weaknesses so he should be OK.  Chances are approximately equal.  Black ha a latent attack on the b-file and white has latent chances by expanding on the kingside.  In either sector, the defensive side should be able to organize effective resistance.
Question 4.   Ditto after Chuchelov's ....b5xc4, except this time infer ideas for white.  Is black's play along the newly opened b-file dangerous (choose and justify no, maybe, only if white is careless, definitely, etc.)?
Black's play along the b-file can become quite dangerous.  White must rush to minimize black's attacking chances; this means Nb3-c5 is important to get rid of the latent power of black's bishop pair.  Alternatives are too passive.  White's idea is to get rid of the bishop pair then strive to open king-side lanes which hitting the newly weak pawn which arrives after Nc5xe6 fxe6.
Toxicraider writes, "4a. First of all I’d like to say I don’t like the move 14…bxc4 I would rather 14…Bxc4 to keep those bishops looking sharp with a rook on c8."
He is partially right, Bxc4 is of equal worth (not worse than bxc4).  Black is operating with the trick 14...Bxc4 15. Bg5 Ng4!!.  On the other hand, bxc4 is very tempting to open a highway right to the WK.  In the game, Chuchelov only went wrong later.  If 14...Bxc4, black will play with ....b5-b4 to keep the balance.  It's just a different course of the game - both moves are of equal merit.

• 5 years ago

thank you for your video and article, I enjoyed them very much. But there are still some of your questions waiting to be aswered, am I wrong? and where is the bibliography you have promised?

• 6 years ago

I loved the video and your Q &I A style. But, I notice that the video posed more questions than you answered here. Could you address the rest of the questions for me?

Thanks,

• 6 years ago

Why are the questions asked in the first video different from the questions asked in this article? Which ones do we have to do first?

1. e6 is a more forcing move, challenging d4 and chasing the knight. But it leaves black with a backwards d-pawn and creates an outpost on d5. e6 seems to keep blacks pawn structure more solid. However, with this move black claims less space and might become a bit cramped. In some situations he could lock in his c6 bishop, for example. It seems to me that e5 is a move more suited for a player that wants to counterattack in a wild position, while e6 leads to a quieter position, perhaps preferred by more positional players.

2. after e6: it seems to me that white wants to complete development and pile up on the backwards d-pawn. A minor piece can occupy the nice outpost on d5. Of course the knight is under attack and should be moved. It could go to f5, f3, e2 or b2. I don't like it on e2 since it blocks our pieces there. On f5 it immediately attacks the weak d-pawn but it can easily be taken by the bishop, leaving us with an awkward pawn, or chased away by g7. I prefer nb3 to nf3. First of all we might want to push the f-pawn later to challenge the center. On the other hand I don't see any need to push the b-pawn in the near future, as black is probably castling kingside and plays b4 himself later on. So I like in order: Nb3, Nf3, Ne2, nf5.

after e5: black does not threaten anything and has a solid position so I'd like to continue development. I'd develop my last minor piece giving me the opportunity to castle. Fianchettoing is a move slower and I don't like it since we have a pawn blocking that diagonal. Developing to c4 does not seem very good either, as black will likely play c4. Then we could play bb3 but that diagonal seems solidly defended by black. I like best to develop to e2. From here it can access the most squares on the board. Another option is bd3, overdefending e4. But the piece seems a bit passive here and we block the open file for our major pieces.

3. Blacks plan is probably to push the a and b pawns, occupying the c-file with his major pieces to start a king hunt. and perhaps opening new files in the process with b4, a5 etc. Black has to hurry, otherwise his backward d-pawn will become a weakness in the later part of the game. I can see two plans for white: piling up on the d-pawn or going for a pawn-storm on the kingside. I'd like to attack the d-pawn with my minor pieces but it's difficult to find good moves for that. I think starting a kingside attack with h4 or g4 could be a better plan.

For black I infer several thematic moves. b4, qb8, qc8, rc8, qc7. I don't like qc8 since I'd like to connect rooks. Rc8 could potentially hang the a-pawn. Besides, I'd rather have the other rook on the c-file for even more firepower. This leaves qc7 and b4. I like qc7, connecting rooks, taking control over the c-pawn and maybe preparing rfc8. It seems a bit too early to push b4 without any pieces to help in the attack. If a knight comes to d5 to attack our queen we can simply trade it off.

As far as I can see the game is about equal, with nice attacking plans for both sides.

4. will come later.

• 6 years ago

I copied out of microsoft word and pasted don't know how all script came with it.  my actual reponse starts at 1a.

• 6 years ago

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1a. I feel that the player that plays 6…e6; well the move seems passive and defensive. I think this player in not an aggressive player and may like a closed position. He will do his damage when you try to break through, or make a mistake.

1b. The 6…e6 player on the other hand seems to want to take more space and be aggressive. My guess is that this player wants to be on the attack.

2a. On 6…e6 my plan would be to keep developing my pieces. I decided on7.Be2 to keep the knight off of g4 while I develop a piece at the same time. The move 7.Qe2 allows7… Kng4 and I don’t want that. I plan to develop until he stops me (meaning I plan to play Qe2 now that the e3 bishop is safe unless he makes some drastic move) and castle kingside. The other bishop moves don’t make sense for me and I didn’t want to make the pawn move f3 yet if ever.

2b. On 6…e5 now he’s attacking I’ve got to move the knight, could go back to f3 but since I am planning to castle kingside and pawn storm it would be in the way and of course e2 blocks the bishop and somewhat the queen, 7.Knf5 might have some merit but, would be to unfamiliar for me to actually play. So, I chose 7.Knb3 staying loose on the kingside and puts another piece in the area I plan to castle.

In my opinion 6…e5 is the stronger move it gains space and keeps me from developing as I please.

3a. At this point I think that black stands better.

3b. Right here I am positive white wants to play g4 to get things rolling on the kingside. As black I think I can beat him to the attack with 12…knc5 I’d like to put an (!) after the move but wasn’t sure it deserved one. Since this is my first try at something like this. Anyway 12…knc5 is a powerful move in my assessment. No. 1 it attacks the d3 bishop and the b3 knight. If he wants to save the bishop I could take the knight and try to cause some discomfort to his king, if he wants to take with the dark bishop he has lost it (his mind). Because black would then take back with 13 dxc eliminates the backward d pawn and putting 3 queenside pawns in a row breathing down on the white king with an army of pieces behind them! The knight on f6 could be on c5 in two moves if need be. The bishops are applying their long range power for attack and defense. Black looks pretty good to me from here.

4a. First of all I’d like to say I don’t like the move 14…bxc4 I would rather 14…Bxc4 to keep those bishops looking sharp with a rook on c8. After 15.Knc5 Qc7 I don’t think this is good because the trade doubles the pawns and takes a pawn defender away from the king. I probably would have played 15…Qc8. After 15.Knc5 Qc7 16 Knxe6  fxe6  white looks a lot better his chances for a kingside assault look promising as to good defenders seem to have vanished. I not a great player by any means, but I know I never would have played this way. My light colored bishop would have tried maintain the a2-g8 diagonal

4b. I going to choose the option only if white is careless. Because we know the light colored bishop is gone we got plenty of lateral defenses and the queen bishop battery should help hold it down over there while we begin a pawn storm. It is not that devastating to me.

This is the first time I ever attempted something like this. I would like to know how I did on this. I not a great player yet so I can’t just waste time on listening to my on little musing if they were that good I would be rated higher!
• 6 years ago

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1a. I feel that the player that plays 6…e6; well the move seems passive and defensive. I think this player in not an aggressive player and may like a closed position. He will do his damage when you try to break through, or make a mistake.

1b. The 6…e6 player on the other hand seems to want to take more space and be aggressive. My guess is that this player wants to be on the attack.

2a. On 6…e6 my plan would be to keep developing my pieces. I decided on7.Be2 to keep the knight off of g4 while I develop a piece at the same time. The move 7.Qe2 allows7… Kng4 and I don’t want that. I plan to develop until he stops me (meaning I plan to play Qe2 now that the e3 bishop is safe unless he makes some drastic move) and castle kingside. The other bishop moves don’t make sense for me and I didn’t want to make the pawn move f3 yet if ever.

2b. On 6…e5 now he’s attacking I’ve got to move the knight, could go back to f3 but since I am planning to castle kingside and pawn storm it would be in the way and of course e2 blocks the bishop and somewhat the queen, 7.Knf5 might have some merit but, would be to unfamiliar for me to actually play. So, I chose 7.Knb3 staying loose on the kingside and puts another piece in the area I plan to castle.

In my opinion 6…e5 is the stronger move it gains space and keeps me from developing as I please.

3a. At this point I think that black stands better.

3b. Right here I am positive white wants to play g4 to get things rolling on the kingside. As black I think I can beat him to the attack with 12…knc5 I’d like to put an (!) after the move but wasn’t sure it deserved one. Since this is my first try at something like this. Anyway 12…knc5 is a powerful move in my assessment. No. 1 it attacks the d3 bishop and the b3 knight. If he wants to save the bishop I could take the knight and try to cause some discomfort to his king, if he wants to take with the dark bishop he has lost it (his mind). Because black would then take back with 13 dxc eliminates the backward d pawn and putting 3 queenside pawns in a row breathing down on the white king with an army of pieces behind them! The knight on f6 could be on c5 in two moves if need be. The bishops are applying their long range power for attack and defense. Black looks pretty good to me from here.

4a. First of all I’d like to say I don’t like the move 14…bxc4 I would rather 14…Bxc4 to keep those bishops looking sharp with a rook on c8. After 15.Knc5 Qc7 I don’t think this is good because the trade doubles the pawns and takes a pawn defender away from the king. I probably would have played 15…Qc8. After 15.Knc5 Qc7 16 Knxe6  fxe6  white looks a lot better his chances for a kingside assault look promising as to good defenders seem to have vanished. I not a great player by any means, but I know I never would have played this way. My light colored bishop would have tried maintain the a2-g8 diagonal

4b. I going to choose the option only if white is careless. Because we know the light colored bishop is gone we got plenty of lateral defenses and the queen bishop battery should help hold it down over there while we begin a pawn storm. It is not that devastating to me.

This is the first time I ever attempted something like this. I would like to know how I did on this. I not a great player yet so I can’t just waste time on listening to my on little musing if they were that good I would be rated higher!

• 6 years ago

Question 1.  e6 v e5:
e5 leaves a hole at d5, but has the upside of giving black more space and a better hold on the center.  The light square bishop in particular is freed with e5.  e6 keeps the pawn structure in tact, but at the cost of leaving black with very little space.  Play e5 if you like more wide open games and prefer to attack, play e6 if you prefer defensive maneuvering in tight spaces.

Question 2. plans for white after e5 and e6.
After e5, white should aim to control the d file with the heavy pieces, and control d5 in particular with the minor pieces.  The pawn structure favors white, so white doesn't need to find any pawn breaks and is content to just slowly lean on the backward d pawn.  Bf4, Bg5 capturing the knight (removing a defender of d5), and Ng3-d2-f1-e3 would be a nice piece setup if white is left unopposed.
After e6, white should continue to develop aggressively, pressing black with their space advantage.  f4 looks strong, as white prepares some pawn breaks with e5 or f5 in the future.  Bd3, Qf3, O-O might be a nice setup if black doesn't provide any resistance.
Question 3.   Who is better after Bd3?  What are black's ideas?  I like black here.  It's interesting that both players seem to be playing against their pawn structure... white needs to attack on the kingside, but their pawns are lined up to play on the queenside.  Black has the opposite problem, where attempting to attack on the queenside is difficult because the dark square bishop looks like it can only take part in kingside operations.
Who has better chances?  Black has nicely advanced pawns on the queenside, and a pretty obvious attacking plan.  Push the pawns, move the queen in behind the pawns, move the f rook in behind the pawns, maybe Nc5 and rip open the position.  The e7 bishop serves as a reserve, ready to jump in if white ever captures the knight on c5.
On the other hand, white's plan is not as easy.  Pushing h4 / g4 etc and bringing the rooks behind the pawns in a race position seems to be the plan, but it feels like white is already behind in the race due to focusing on controlling the weakness at d5.  Perhaps white should have castled kingside...

Question 4.   Ditto after ...b5xc4.  What are white's ideas?  Is black's play along the newly opened b-file dangerous?
My first instinct is that black is better.  The a pawn can run down the board, the b file is open for the major pieces, and white hasn't even started an attack on the kingside.  Looking closely though, it seems black has a real problem getting their minor pieces involved on the queenside.  Both bishops are running into their own pawns, and the knight is a couple moves away.  Maybe Nd7-c5  would be  a good plan for black, but even from there, it's not clear how black will break through.  It appears that white actually has plenty of time to get things going on the kingside (or to go to work on the backward d pawn).  Possibly black should start pushing the a pawn, provoke white to play a3, and then consider sacrificing the d pawn to let the dark square bishop join the attack... so I'd say the open b file is not immediately dangerous, but white must be careful not to let black get their minor pieces involved in an attack.
White's idea then is to play Nc1-d2 and Bc1 to defend the attack, then start pushing the g and h pawns to generate counterplay on the kingside, trying to keep black's pieces tied up defending their king.  White may want to play Nd5 and Nd2-f3 to ensure that black never gets the dark square bishop to the queenside, even if it allows black to exchange and alleviate some of white's pressure on the d file.
Or not.  White didn't do this at all in the game.  :)  That's what I would think though.
• 6 years ago

I enjoyed the video very much. But, I am wondering where and when you will be posting the answers to your questions in the video. Will there be an upcoming video that reviews your questions and candidate moves?

• 6 years ago

To StrategyKing420: Just answer them in a Comment as Campione did.  I'll collate them and then give the "master template" response.

To Dazbedford:

Some core books

Lipnitsky, Questions of Modern Chess Theory

Khalifman's Best Games by Nesis

Tal's Life and Games by Tal

Uhlmann and Schmidt, Open Lines

Zuerich 1953 by Kotov and Bronstein

Decisive Games in Chess History by Pachmann

Modern Instructive Chess Masterpieces by Stohl

Alekhine's Best Games Vol. I and II by Alekhine

You can find many of these at US Chess online bookstore and others at New in Chess bookstore (newinchess.com).

Magazines:

New In Chess

• 6 years ago

I'll give it a go:

Q1: e5 leaves d5 weak and frees the c8 bishop. e6 looks more solid, because it doesn't leave the hole on d5, but seems to me at first glance to hinder development more. I would think more aggressive players would choose e5, more careful, positional players e6. While I like to be aggressive, I'd probably choose e6, because as black I would be unsure about how to defend d5 and nervous of a good player playing against that weakness.

Q2: My limited understanding of this type of Sicilian is that White is looking for active piece play to compensate for Black's extra central pawn. After e5 my instinct (please bear in mind I'm almost 1,000 points weaker than these players) would be to put my bishop on d3, my Queen on d2, and maybe castle long to exert d-file pressure, with the possibility of putting my c3 knight on d5 (all this, obviously, after moving the en prise knight to b3).

After e6 I'm not so sure. If he played d5 at any point I'd probably play e5 myself. I'd think about putting my bishop on c4 and developing my Queen and hope for tactics against e6 and f7.

Q3: I think White is a shade better because of a more solid pawn structure and Black's weakness on d6. I don't see how Black can remedy that because ...d5 doesn't look possible anytime soon.

The main plus of Black's position, I think, is the open C-file. Thus if I was Black my instinct would be to look for an attack on White's king. I'd look at moves like Qc7 and Rfc8.

Q4: I think Black's play on the b-file would be more dangerous if Nc5 wasn't possible. I don't see any forced mating ideas because the knight on c3 looks a solid defender and after Nc5 he can play knight takes Be6, removing another potential attacker.

It is a danger, but only if white is careless, I think. If I was white I'd exchange that Nc5 for the Be6, as McShane did, and look to initiate a kingside attack myself while keeping an eye on the danger. However, maybe I'm only saying that because I've watched the video - if this was my own game, I'd be more worried about Black's attack if I was playing a strong player and might overreact to the threat and be a little too passive.

• 6 years ago

Is there a place where we are supposed to awenser these questions or are we just suposed to awenser them to ouselves. If thats the case will you be giving the ideas that you use to awenser these questions youself IM?

• 6 years ago

Which books do you reccomend?

• 6 years ago
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• 6 years ago

Welcome to chess.com expert leadership team.

• 6 years ago

I will record the video segment next Tuesday, and it should be posted shortly after that.  We'll go over the opening in detail and see key improvements for both sides.  More importantly, the way I will prescribe in how to look at positions will help identify the improvements.