Where Experts Go Wrong... Part 1

May 23, 2009, 7:32 PM |

Every step up in chess is a kind of learning process.  As we progress, we begin to eliminate more and more errors from our game. We come closer to the truth about the ideas in our heads.

The next step I personally want to achieve is being able to dominate the 2000-2200 crowd, and this is no small feat. Unlike class players, experts have an all around grip on their openings, tactics, positional play, middlegames and endings. More or less. Experts have managed to eliminate a larger number of the gaffers which keep class players floating in alphabet soup. However, dont be fooled, their play is like swiss cheese!!

Yet assuming the play of experts is relatively sound, what are the frequent mistakes that experts make? Surely this level of chess play isn’t so high as to be that much better than, let’s say, one 200 points below it? Can these errors we’re referring to be categorized?

The following is an attempt to examine errors in games I have played against Experts. The errors are either my own (when my rating is in that range of 2000-2200) or my opponent’s.

This first category of mistake is probably one of the most ubiquitous in chess, although I notice masters seem to be much less prone to it...

welcome to BAD PLANS 



Demmery (2078) –Whissell (1973), Kitchener 2008









Black to play






This is a form of bad plan. Due to some slightly unorthodox play by White, my opponent and I are in the mainline of a Bogo-Indian Defense with an entire extra tempo for Black.  Looking at the position I begin to drool imagining the powerhouse knight on c5 reigning supreme over the bishop on g2  - after an exchange of one pair of knights. That being said, Black should logically follow up with with any of 1...Nxd3, 1...Rfc8, 1...Qb6!? or play 1...N6d7, all of which focus around cementing control of the dark squares on the Queenside.

Instead I saw a lusty variation and played 


I had calculated 4 different lines were White was losing. Positionally the move might make sense if I really was ready to fight on the kingside. Yet there are still tactical problems with playing ...f5 next move. Problems like I don’t control the square f5.

Well this is pretty isn’t it? Black “hangs” a piece and disaster strikes if either knight is captured. It can work if White plays stupid moves like

2.Nxc5?? Nf2+ –+

2.Qxg4?? Nxd3 –+

2.Qe2?? Nxd3 –+

2.b3?? Nxd3 –+


Alright, four good variations! I must winning right? My heart starts to pound with the drums of war, hoping for a quick massacre.



Hmmm. Not actually collaborating? Where are my killer variations? What exactly is my knight doing in mid-air? After Steve played this move, I sank back down into my chair and realized I had committed a terrible waste of time. After a long and unhappy think I decided there was nothing better than:


2...Nxd3 3.Qxd3

Compared to the alternative line beginning with 1...Nxd3, I have lost two entire tempi! One will be having to replace the knight, and the second is allowing White's rooks to double.


3...b6 4.Bh3 Nf6

The penalty for the bad plan is cemented with White’s last move. I will never be able to achieve the glory of having a knight dominate the dark squares from c5, as White will all to happily lob its head off with Bxd7 en route.


Oh, and for those of you who realized I wasn’t in the expert range at this time kudos. Yet after this tournament I was of sufficient rating, so I’ve included this game based on that fact and more importantly how instructive this error seems to be. The game ended in a draw.








Guignard (2013) – Whissell (1981) Sudbury, 2008








 White to play



In the game I had just played the move ...Nb6, which I thought was really interesting and could end up giving me a good deal of pressure on the queenside if White captured the knight. In truth it didn’t look like the knight had anywhere else to go. If it had stayed where it was, I probably would have captured it on the spot to cripple the White pawn majority, but then there would always be his two vicious raking bishops and central control of double c-pawns to contend with.



White formulates a plan to exchange our dark-square bishops. He will bring his knight to g4 and from there play Bh6 and remove White’s most powerful minor. I think one of the reasons this plan came into being was that Michael did not like either creating counterplay by 1.Nxb6 or allowing his knight to be captured. In short I think a measure of pressure forced him into a bad plan.


1.Nxb6?! isn’t really necessary either, as it promotes counterplay for Black on the Queenside.


1.Re1 may have been best, simply building pressure on the Black center. I wonder if White didn’t like this line because it allowed me to immobilize his majority with 1...Nxc4. However, White’s two bishops would be a terror in this scenario.



This is the big problem with White’s plan, it is slow and we are in a fairly open position. Black begins counterplay immediately on the Queenside.


2.Ng4 f5! Probably a surprise to Michael, but not to anyone who has played the Dutch before. There is no time to get the bishop into h6. Black in fact completely supports the invasion of his weakened squares, because White cannot do so effectively.


3.Nh6+ Kh8 4.Bg5

White hopes he can pin the e-pawn, which is often a big weakness in the Sicilian Dragon pawn structure. However, black has already broken White’s central advantage by playing ...d5 earlier, and now the e-pawn is mobile.


4...Qd7 5.Rfe1 e5

Black takes over the center and the game. His Queenside play went on to determine that White’s plan to try and exchange dark-squared bishops had failed badly.