What Can We Learn From This Horrible Game?
Sometimes you learn the most from the ugliest games.

What Can We Learn From This Horrible Game?

| 76 | Tactics

I think it was GM Tartakower who once said "the wise chess player learns from someone else’s mistakes, the smart one learns from his own mistakes, and the stupid chess players never learn."

So, let's be wise and learn from the games of the best chess players in the world!

The only question is, which games should we use? It is tempting to get a game played by two 2800 players, but I can assure you that in most cases an average club player is not going to learn much from the sophisticated opening and fine maneuvers played by super-grandmasters. 

It is the ugly, error-infested games that make the best learning material!

learning chess

Today I want to offer you such a game played by two great chess players from the past. Emanuel Schiffers, who played White, kept the title of Russian champion for 10 years and was definitely one of top 20 players in the world. His opponent, Mikhail Chigorin, needs no introduction as he played two world championship matches vs. Wilhelm Steinitz.

chigorin chess

Chigorin wia Wikipedia. 

The start of their game brought a big surprise:

I have no idea why Chigorin, who was considered one of the best theoreticians of his time, played this garbage. The 2...f6 move is as bad as it can be. It opens the diagonal a2-g8 and makes it difficult to castle kingside, but it is the weakness of the diagonal h5-e8 that makes Black's king especially vulnerable.

If that is not enough for you to make a verdict about the 2..f6? move, ask the Ng8 what he thinks about losing the best square for his development! The only good feature of the 2...f6? move is that it doesn't lose by force!

How would you proceed for White?

Yes, this is the famous Damiano gambit, which is not really a gambit, since Black loses by force if he accepts it!

Even though Chigorin correctly declines the sacrifice, his position is still pretty awful! Can you find how White punished his opponent for his poor opening play?

As you can see, the second jump of the Nf3 to the same e5 square became truly deadly! White has won the queen and the game is now over, right? That's what Schiffers probably thought. But just one careless move turned the game dramatically!

Black's combination, which was quite obvious, completely changed the situation! Now the most prudent decision for White was just to accept the draw by repetition of moves. In his stubborn desire to convert his extra queen into a win, White crosses the line.

Find a very neat combination that would finish the game instantly!

It is strange that Chigorin, known for his penchant for combinations, missed a forced checkmate; moreover, he missed the second chance to execute the same combination one move later:

The final mistake of the game happened in the position when the opponents agreed to a draw:

Let's sum up the game:

  1. GM Chigorin played the opening almost like a beginner and as a result he lost his queen by move 12!
  2. Schiffers didn't pay attention to Black's threats and let Chigorin sacrifice a piece that should have led to a draw. Refusing to accept a draw, White allowed his opponent to deliver a forced checkmate.
  3. Chigorin missed a forced checkmate two moves in the row.
  4. Schiffers agrees to a draw in a practically winning position.

While the combination missed by both opponents was very pretty, the game wasn't! It is not easy to find another game played by two very strong chess players filled with so many mistakes. Yet I wouldn't trade this game for a dozen flawless "Berlins."

First, despite all the mistakes (or maybe thanks to them!), it was a very exciting game. Besides, this instructive game demonstrates typical opening mistakes that many inexperienced players commit, and also shows the way to punish such mistakes!

Hopefully you learned from this game some typical ways to attack a king.

Finally, next time you are about to agree to a draw in your game, remember Schiffer's mistake and ask yourself if you are not missing a way to play for a win!

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