The Learning Process

The Learning Process

| 24 | Tactics

One thing that I try pretty hard to do after playing a tournament these days is to go through all my games and annotate them. There are various things I'm looking for, but here's a quick list:

(1) Did the opening go according to plan? If not, figure out what I'm supposed to do.

(2) What were the critical moments in the game, and did I approach or solve them in an appropriate manner.

(3) Did I spend too much time at various points (I often get into time trouble, so I write down my times on the scoresheet so as to look at this later).

(4) Finally, I try and write a couple conclusions at the end of my annotations to each game, as to what I did well, and what I didn't do so well.

I played two tournaments last summer, and in the first one from Spain, I played an interesting Ruy Lopez against the young Dutch player Jonathan Tan. The opening was pretty standard, but then I outplayed him in the middlegame to reach a better position. However, I started to take a lot of time and then I made some serious tactical errors that my opponent fortunately missed.

When I got back from my summer trip, I went over this game and drew a couple conclusions. The process probably helped me out when I played in Delhi in January 2009. As usual, you'll need to expand the move list to see all the annotations. I'm not going to point out all the possible variations we considered during the game or post-mortem, but rather highlight some of the key lines.

Question: What would you play here as White?

So what happened in this game? For starters, I mismanaged my time once I recognized I was better. I had 40 minutes left when I played 21...Nc4, but then after 26...Ra2, I only had 14 minutes left. Where did the time go? I played 21...Nc4 (pretty obvious), 22...Rxa8 (very obvious), 23...Ra1 (reasonably obvious), 24...g6 (not so obvious), 25...Nb6 (a strong move, if I may say so myself), and 26...Ra2 (planned once I played 25...Nb6). Did I really need 26 minutes to find all those moves? Probably not, but I guess 24...g6 and 25...Nb6 were not the most intuitive moves to me.

How about later, after I started to go wrong with 27...Nh5?!. I underestimated his idea with 30.g3, but then I repeatedly missed a tactical motif with 33.Rxf7+ Bxf7 34.Qxf7+, hitting the king and rook on a2. I missed this the following move as well. Backward moves and keeping track of the entire board isn't the easiest task, but I really should have seen this. I'm pretty sure I would have seen it had I been sitting on the other side of the board.

From this last point, one of the things I began to do after coming back from those tournaments was to solve some tactics in a different manner. I usually try to solve some problems on most days anyways, about 30 problems in each sitting. For 15 of them, I would set them up with whoever was supposed to win (e.g., White if it was 'White to play and win'), but then for the other 15, I would set them up with whoever was supposed to lose (e.g., Black if it was 'White to play and win.'). The idea was that it would help me recognize tactical opportunities for my opponent. Fast forward to January 2009, when I played in Delhi. I didn't play so well overall, but I think there were some fruits from my tactical work.

Question: My opponent played 22.Qg6+ and offered a draw. Is the position equal or can White win?

Finally, here's one more example from Delhi. Pretend you're playing the Black pieces in the following position (note that the lines here did not actually occur during the game).

Question: Black is down a pawn, but his pieces are more active. How should Black proceed? There are 3 lines you should calculate:   
    (1) 24...Be6 25.exf5 Bxc4 26.Qe1 Rxf5 , playing for an attack along the f-file;    
    (2) 24...Be6 25.exf5 Bxc4 26.Qe1 Bxa2, restoring material equality; 
    (3) 24...f4, pushing forward to keep the center closed and threaten ...f3.
Expanding the move list will show my answer.

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