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Playing Goliath: What Goes Wrong

Playing Goliath: What Goes Wrong

The Chess.com member Souvik had a couple things to discuss. The first is his simultaneous game against an international master. After Souvic was completely outclassed in the opening (not a surprise when a 1500 player plays an IM), the IM got himself into some serious trouble.

Instead of discussing Souvik’s play I want to do something a bit different. I want to explain what the titled player (in this case, IM Andras Toth) has to go through and why mistakes are common in a simul.

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But what about Souvik’s play? If he was winning at some point doesn’t that mean he did some pretty good things? The answer is no, it was really all about Toth: Souvik was completely lost pretty quickly, Toth botched it (in a quite common simultaneous manner), Souvik gobbled up lots of material, and then Souvik crashed and burned by giving material back and finally got himself mated.

Please understand that I’m not tossing any disrespect to Souvik. But if a player wants to improve (and I suspect Souvik very much wants to improve) you have to be honest with yourself or you won’t notice, and then fix, all the errors you make.

HERE IS THE GOLIATH vs. SOUVIC GAME

Both players should always know what their opponent’s best reply will be. If you play a move that’s based on your own desires without looking at the enemy response, expect to lose many winning positions. You always have to know which pieces (and pawns) are vulnerable (for both sides). In particular, if a piece or pawn is unprotected (yours or your opponents), you must be 100 percent aware of it.

These two rules might sound simplistic, but they are some of the main reasons why people lose.

I also took a look at Souvik’s games and noticed some weaknesses that he has to deal with. The first thing I saw was his desire to get rid of all pawn tension (a very common affliction of amateurs).

Here's another example of a fear of pawn tension:

Here we saw:

  • Black left his pieces and pawns on undefended (or inadequately defended) squares.
  • Black’s …b7-b5 not only left the c6-knight without protection, it also created a huge hole on c5 (making a hole in your own camp isn’t very wise).
  • If your king is safe and your opponent’s king is in the center, do your best to rip open the center and take a bite of the uncastled king.
  • When your king is in the center, do NOT open the position up since you will be giving the opponent roads to your soon-to-be-dead king.

French Defense — is …f7-f6 good?

Souvik wrote

I used to play the French Defense against White’s 1.e4. I read lots of books regarding this opening. Now I came to know that a timely placed ...f6 pawn move should be great for Black. But still I hesitate to play this move. These are some following reasons:

1. First of all after ...f6 the pawn on e6 will be a weak square.

2. I don’t think that ...f6 will be favorable for the development my light-square bishop.

3. In most of my games after ...f6 my opponent used to played exf6 and then he used to play knight on e5 and I don’t know how to fight in this kind of position.

I shall be grateful to you if you kindly give me some suggestion regarding ...f6 in French Defense.”

Silman: Mr. Souvik, the French Defense is a very popular opening. Though it’s sharp and full of tactics, the basic ideas are easy to learn and most amateurs can’t handle the white side of the French at all (one of my students, rated around 1500, has played the French for many years and he comes out of the opening with an advantage about 90 percent of the time!). However, if you feel you are very weak in tactics, or if you feel that it just doesn’t feel good when you play it, then toss it away and find something that’s more to your taste.

LET'S START WITH WHAT BLACK DOES NOT WANT:

BAD TO THE BONE 1

Black wants to avoid this kind of position since e6 is a target and the e5-square is in White’s hands. Even if the remaining knights are traded off, the e5-square is still owned by White.

BAD TO THE BONE 2

If you play the French, don’t give up those key d4- and e5-squares!

NOW WE WILL MOVE ON TO THE JUICY STUFF FOR BLACK: 

Here’s a quick look at positions where ...f7-f6 is played in a BRUTAL MANNER:

BRUTAL ONE

BRUTAL TWO

Black Sacrifices the Exchange

Ex Sac One

Ex Sac Two



Ex Sac Three

Ex Sac Four

Ex Sac Five



OTHER IDEAS FOR BLACK

ABOUT BLACK'S LIGHT-SQUARED BISHOP

Souvik asked about Black’s light-squared bishop and how bad it is. But is that really true? Black’s light-squared bishop protects the e6-pawn. In some lines it can leap into the game by...Bd7-b5. And in other situations the bishop can emerge on the kingside by ...Bd7-e8-h5/g6.

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