A Club Player's Life
For this blog post, I would like to share with you some games featuring club players. Through these games, we can learn about some typical mistakes at the amateur level, how to punish them and how to avoid them.
Furthermore, when we are trying to learn what we are aiming for in an opening (and don't have the benefit of a strong trainer to clearly explain what our 'dream positions' are), you can find this understanding in games where the opponent does little to stop the opponent's ideas. Indeed, this is why many players recommend studying the games of the old masters, as the very top players prior to the mid-20th century had a vastly superior positional/dynamic understanding to their opponents.
When you started playing chess, I'm sure that you went through the phase where you tried to checkmate or at least destroy the opponent as quickly as possible, so you could spend the rest of your precious time hanging out with your friends or playing video games! But on a more serious note, we all know that the 'four move checkmate' isn't going to work against serious opposition, and yet this doesn't stop players continuing to fall into the 'myth' of the blistering, Tal-like attack. The problem is that big attacks don't come out of nowhere; you have to plant the seeds before you can collect the harvest from your crop!
So while this game isn't technically featuring a Grandmaster, you can probably relate to it, whether you were playing the mad hack or defending against it...
Loose Pieces Drop Off
Of course, at the club level, most games are going to be decided by one of the players missing a tactic, but unless the opponent blunders badly, you still have to set up the position where tactics abound! An easy way you can reduce the tactical oversights in your games is to make sure your pieces are protected, since at least 50% of tactics in chess arise from undefended pieces! You could just as easily reverse this and ask 'What pieces in my opponent's camp are undefended? How could I exploit that?'
White has various decent moves in the position, but which one would you dream of playing, in an idyllic world?
Pawn Structure is Gold, but the Initiative is Platinum
To finish this short post, I'll share with you two games that will allow us to understand the way to beat a player who doesn't just hang their pieces to tactics - you have to put pressure on them! Now I know your question: how do you get that pressure and make them crack? Ask enough times and I might write a book on it!
Joking aside, the key to beating expert players (let's say 1900-2100) is to take control of the game. Set up a nice flow of threats that the opponent can't ignore. But these threats don't come out of nowhere - we need to make sure our pieces are in the action, and if they are locked in by the pawn structure, by all means find the right pawn break to give them a highway into the opponent's position!
You'd be surprised how often a Grandmaster advances their rook's pawn down the board like it's nothing, and gets a great position! Indeed, if you have a stable position in the centre, it is much easier to make these sorts of flank attacks work, as we'll appreciate with the next two games.
Finally, I will give you an opportunity to play into your 'myth' after all...can you play like Shirov? Note: The game started 1.d4 f5 2.g3 d6 3.Bg2, just like one of my games last year!
Now the arising position is very complicated based on some conflicting long-term factors, so allow me to take you through this part:
This is the last puzzle for today - I promise! White to play and figure out what to do about the threat of capturing on f4.
I hope you enjoyed this foray into a club player's life! Now I have a question to ask you: what sorts of positions do you get into against your fellow club players, and how comfortable do you feel while playing those positions?