Diamond in the Rough
© House to House Heart to Heart

Diamond in the Rough

GM Illingworth

What games can we learn the most from?

The easy answer is to pick the games of the world's best players - either today's top players or the strong masters of old eras. These games improve our overall chess understanding and teach us some great ideas.

However, within the hundreds of chess games published each day from over-the-board tournaments, there are some 'diamonds in the rough' - nice positions or puzzles in amateur games, from which we can learn a lot! 

Of course, it takes a lot of time to go through all these games, and how many of us have that time? The good news is, you don't need to - a great trainer will pick out the best examples for you. 

I know you're excited to see today's game, from the 2019 Azerbaijan Women's Championship. It featured a Black Philidor-style setup often played in online blitz as a way to avoid theory:

I often use this d4/e4/f4 setup myself against such passive variations, as it often takes the opponent 'out of their system', and then they don't know what to do. Now for the puzzle!
If you haven't already, make sure to read the notes in the puzzle once you've finished it!
Now for the conclusion of the game:
The main lessons are as follows:
1) If the opponent picks a passive setup, we may easily be rewarded for playing more ambitiously than usual.
2) Normal-looking positions can also have tactical opportunities - so we should examine the forcing moves (checks, captures, threatening moves) before settling on an 'improving move'. 
3) Our work is not done when we play a tactic - often precision is still required to haul in the full point!
4) Don't stop your calculations too early - when the position in your visualised line has 'settled' (no mate threats or pieces under attack), look one move deeper for a 'sting in the tail'. 
Thanks for reading! Do you know an instructive amateur game? Maybe you played a nice one recently? Share it in the comments below!