Challenger's Corner Recap: Making the Most of Small Advantages

Challenger's Corner Recap: Making the Most of Small Advantages


Missed my stream on Monday night? Here are some highlights of key points during my Challenger's Corner stream. If you like what you see, you should follow my Twitch Channel for updates on my partnered stream!

As always, I like to do a brief recap of some of my streams on my blog, as well as some key learning points for my audience. This stream was a lot of fun - challenging opponents, time scrambles, and a special guest...? Let's dive in.

Handling the Bc4 Grand Prix Sicilian and other Bc4 Set-ups

This line is known to be tricky for Black if he doesn't know the theory. White's goal is to place the bishop on c4 and push f2-f4-f5 to wreak havoc on the f7 square. Even with minimal theory for White, I recommend it for my U1500 students looking to get an easy game against the Sicilian. So how should Black respond?

White didn't play a true Grand Prix, but the plan stayed the same. White lost a tempo with the lethargic 5. a3 and it gave me the chance to control the center. White erred early and let me win the e-pawn, but the critical moment occurred when I managed to induce this error:

While there was some work left to do here, we saw that 15. g4? was the final nail in the coffin for White. You can watch the game unfold in its entirety here:

Winning with the Grip Pawn Structure

In a later game, I decided to play 1. b3 (the Larsen's Opening) and opt for a Hedgehog set-up. I didn't get much, but then a key moment occurred when the Grip Pawn structure arose:

If you take a look at the queenside, White has basically achieved the Grip. Black's pawns are stuck and I have potential outposts on the c6 and b5 squares. Notice how because of my space advantage, it's also a lot easier for me to reach c7 than it is for Black to attack b3. Black tried to break through with ...c7-c6, but this left him with chronically weak d6 and b6 pawns:

I actually learned a lot about the Grip pawn structure from the first Speed Chess Championship Finals between GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura. I went back and dug up the critical moment - I'll let GM Robert Hess break it down even more for you all

If you find these kind of pawn structures and the endgames they present interesting, I wrote about this extensively on Chess^Summit back in 2016 - and you can read the article for free here.

Anyways, the rest of the game proved to be not too difficult, but I got a big surprise from a special guest during my post mortem... I'll leave it to you to figure out who it was!

Activity Can Win You Games!

Hopefully not a surprise for you all, but I got a nice exemplar in my final game of the night:

Even though I'm up a pawn, I need to be smart about how I handle this position. Black's queen looks active on the queenside, and the presence of opposite colored bishops is always something to consider when simplifying into various endgames. I think the key in these sorts of positions is to identify your advantages, and seek out your opponents weaknesses. On a very general level, we can identify:

1) White has a massive central advantage

2) The f7 pawn is a potential weak spot for Black

So in the spirit of the position, I continued:

Black crumbled quickly under the pressure, but the rook trade on c7 really set the tone for the rest of the game. Here's the full Twitch highlight:

Shoutouts and Upcoming

I'm planning on streaming tomorrow at 3pm EST while I compete during the Royal Arena Kings Tournament. I had a lot of fun commentating on the event a few weeks ago, so it's about time I throw my hat into the ring and give it my best shot!


My next Challenger's Corner stream will be on Monday, October 8th at 8pm EST (my usual time), so if you haven't already, make sure to follow me on Twitch so you can get notified when I go live!

For those of you familiar with my work, I also double as a video contributor for alongside GM Eugene Perelshteyn (fellow partnered streamer), and the site is offering a special discount where the code DRAGON will save you 50% on an annual membership, dropping the price from $49.99 to $24.99/year.


If you aren't familiar with the site, here's a quick taste of some of our work:

So that's a wrap from me - hoping to score well in tomorrow's Arena Kings event!