Attack Training with Joel
At the beginning of the year, I set out to achieve an ambitious list of chess goals for 2016. Two of those goals were to continue to improve my attacking play and to develop a new white opening repertoire.
In the first few months of the year I developed a white repertoire based on the Catalan and Exchange Slav. It is a solid choice and was recommended by my chess coach at that time, as I told him my goal was to move to a more mainline white opening after many years of playing the solid, if staid, Torre Attack.
The problem with the Catalan and Exchange Slav is that my other chess improvement goal is to improve my attacking play. It is hard to improve one's attacking play if one rarely see positions where a kingside attack is warranted.
For various reasons, things didn't work out with that coach and I decided if I'm going to learn attacking play, I need to hit it head on. Reading a few attacking books just is helpful but just wasn't getting me where I wanted to be. So, I decided to hire NM Joel Johnson as my new chess coach with the mission to turn me into an attacking machine as quickly as possible, at least by the World Open.
Why Joel? Here you go.
I began working with Joel on April 5th, agreeing to a four hour per week schedule.
Instead of being a cafeteria-style coach who will teach you whatever you pay him for, Joel teaches attacking chess. He oozes attacking chess and teaches a no-holds-barred style of chess where the student must overcome his fears and insecurities and attack ruthlessly.
To do this, he begins by teaching fundamental tactical concepts that are required to find attacking resources. Invisible defenders, setting up and exploiting pins, opening lines to the king, etc.
Then, he teaches specific attacking openings. These are openings that very frequently lead to kingside attacking opportunities, openings such as the Sicilian Grand Prix, Alekine's Defense, etc. For me, since I'm coming from the world of d4, we began with the Modern Reti as white.
During our training sessions, we go through a huge database of his attacking games in the opening we are studying. We play "guess the move" where I guess his moves. When I make a move other than what he played in the game, he explains why my move was inferior (or why it is okay, or very rarely, better). We play through the whole game like this and every game ends in checkmate or the opponent resigning a hopelessly lost position.
Often there is a moment in the game when I can pick up a pawn or two, a piece, or even the opponent's queen. Usually when I make that move, I hear a "BOOOO! Wrong!" from Joel. You see, the games almost always end in checkmate! So, he is training me that when I am attacking the king, I need to not automatically settle for a material gain but need to push myself to continue looking for checkmating resources.
You may wonder why the Reti would be considered an attacking opening? It may or may not be, depending on how white and black play but given the right selection of lines, there are definite opportunities to attack on the kingside as the white player, by launching a pawn storm after black castles. At least, it can have a much more aggressive character than my old Torre "Attack."
Here is my new Reti opening in action against a National Master in my last OTB tournament. That game didn't happen to open up any kingside attacking possibilities, though, I'll take a game where my master opponent forces a draw.