A Sample Coaching Game - Part 2

Jan 22, 2013, 5:30 AM |

A Sample Coaching Game with a Student

(Part 2) 

Below is a transcript from an actual coaching game that shows the richness of the ongoing discussion (literally on each move) between coach and student.  A total of over 250 messages were exchanged to discuss important chess principles, key strategies and considerations, specific moves and how they all fit together, share relevant resources, etc.

The transcript is laid out in a series of blog posts, each covering a portion of the game with the relevant diagrams and discussions.  Context is re-established at the start of each part.

Legend (on how to read the discussion and follow the unfolding chess game):

[bold, larger font, cyan highlight] : the most recent move, based on the preceding discussion

[bold, dark green] : broadly valid (beyond this particular game) chess principles and related advice

white’s (coach’s) comments follow the letter “V”, while black’s (student’s) comments follow the letter “F”.


_valentin_ (2470) vs. phranck (1719)

(5 days per move)




Moves covered in previous parts:

- Part 1 (http://blog.chess.com/_valentin_/a-sample-coaching-game-with-a-student): [1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O e4 7.Ne1 Bxc3 8.dxc3 h6 9.Nc2 Re8 10.Bf4 d6 11.h3 Be6 12.b3]


[ Continuing below after white's move 12.b3 ] 

F: Right now I still control the e4 square you'd like your pawn to be on and I only currently have one defender since my bishop is blocking my rook from defending.

F: I could force the issue by moving Bf5 which may cause a counter move of g4. That would open up your king side but it would also cause me to have to retreat again

F: I was also thinking maybe Qd7 to threaten your h file pawn and also to connect my rooks

V: I cannot immediately challenge your e4-pawn at the moment, and as I mentioned earlier, part of white's plan is to move g4+Bg3 at some point, since that bishop on f4 cannot stay for long (it can be pushed back easily, with tempo).

V: Hence, ...Bf5 doesn't help you much. It seems to me that your position has very few weak spots (I note the b7-pawn and the d5-square, but little else is obvious), and your pieces are laid out well and almost symmetrically to mine. It may help to develop the rest of your pieces and find ways to press white on white's weaknesses, eventually. White has weaknesses on the queen-side dark squares (a3, b2, c3), and white's pieces occupy far from optimal positions (e.g., the knight, the bishops are nearly blocked, the heavy pieces are undeveloped yet). Hence, black doesn't have any pressing problems, but white may have if they're not careful. How can you make white's game harder, especially positioning the pieces on good squares? That's worth thinking about, not only now but in the upcoming moves too.

F: g5 would force your bishop to move. Also a4 might work as to move b5 later.

F: I've always been hesitant to advance my pawns forward too early in front of my king side castle. It often seems to lead to weaknesses later in the game.

V: You are correct; moves like …g5 need to be taken with a huge grain of salt: sometimes they are worth it, but often they aren't because of the long-term weaknesses they create in your pawn chain, especially in front of the king. In our particular case, the benefit of g5 would be to push my bishop a bit back, but it's not such a huge problem for white, while your costs (in weakening of the king structure) would be permanent. So on positional grounds I would reject that option.

V: Did you watch the Kamsky - Svidler game I referred to earlier? What did Svidler undertake there, and did it work? It's not the exact same position, but it's close enough and the plans can be quite similar in effectiveness.

F: I see he moved a5, which is something I was actually considering but it didn't seem right for some reason. I guess that does prevent you from moving your knight to b4

V: Indeed, a5 captures space on the queen-side and prevents white from expanding the scope of the knight, which is otherwise poorly placed on c2. Beyond this move too, Svidler had some good ideas in his game.



V: Apparently, the transposition of move order is not in my favor (expectedly, I tried to improve on Kamsky's play :-)). Now it's getting more difficult to pick a good plan for white. I am choosing one option that seems reasonable (13.Qc1), though I also looked at others (13.Nd4), which I did not find as compelling for white.



F: my two thoughts are b6 or qd7. Moving the queen here to has always been something that I haven't fully understood. I see it done a lot. Qd7 or Qe7. Without knowing what its really setting up. I know a theory is you should try to connect your rooks, but why is that important?

V: Good question. The queen moves at the end of an opening usually for a couple of reasons: to create more space for the remaining pieces (typically, rooks) and to align itself with a potential line of attack/defense.

V: In your case, Qd7 aligns with an attack on a weakened h3-pawn, and it simultaneously connects the rooks. The latter is important because rooks are usually much stronger when used as a pair then when used as two individual pieces, i.e., they have synergy. To connect rooks is to establish clear "communication" and visibility between them, so that they can reinforce each other and exert stronger pressure on the files/ranks where they sit.

V: As far the option ...b6, I am not certain of its purpose; I know Svidler played it in that game against Kamsky, but the purpose is not clear to me.

F: In this case I would likely go Qd7 to help support my e6 bishop

V: The move Qd7 seems decent. Things to consider related to it are the fact that the d-file is now free for my f-rook (which I fully intend to place there, which may be followed by a push c5). Perhaps that's the context why Svidler found it necessary to prevent c5 by pushing b6 himself as a preventive measure.



V: 14.g4 (as previously planned by me) is worth examining, but it felt very risky to me, in light of the possibility of a sacrifice 14...Nxg4 15.hxg4 Bxg4, and black presses very strongly on the king side. The h-pawn is about to roll down toward my king, my e-pawn is weak, my knight is stuck in an unfavorable position, and my rooks aren't playing, not to mention that my king would be more vulnerable due to the lack of pawn cover. So I decided against such risks.



F: In the Kamsky/Svidler game he played Ne7. Perhaps not in the same order as we've played but it looks like a move that can both add support to d5 for an eventual push of my pawn there and also potential move to Ng6 to attack your bishop on f4. Especially if you do decide to move your pawn to g4.

F: I don't see the need yet for b6 since you still haven't moved your rook to the d-file.

V: You are correct; ...b6 doesn't seem necessary, since my push c5 is not an immediate threat presently. In the GM game we've been looking at, ...b6 was necessary because Kamsky had stacked a queen and rook along the d-file already. And also, Nc6-Ne7-Ng6 is a worthwhile maneuver, which I also looked at in choosing my moves. It seems that black must push ...d5 at some point, so preparing for this event is important -- and both sides need to prepare for it.



V: One potential downside of your ...Ne7, which I notice now, is that I can force an exchange of my poorly placed knight for your bishop on e6 (after Nd4). Not sure this is best, or desirable, but it's an option I will consider.



F: I'm thinking Ng6. I thought about d5 but if you decided to capture my bishop with your knight i would likely then have to capture with my queen leaving my c pawn vulnerable to your bishop.

V: While I do not necessarily advocate d5 (it seems possible), I have two clarifying questions for you: (a) What would happen if ...d5 Nxe6 fxe6, and (b) What if ...d5 Nxe6 Qxe6 Bxc7 Rec8, pressing on my pawn c4 next ?

F: The second line you mentioned was the main reason why I was leaning towards Ng6 instead of d5. That way if you do decide to capture with Nxe6 I would be able to capture with Rxe6 and still have c7 covered

F: I guess I didn't really explain that well in my previous comment.

V: I see this, but I don't see a problem for you if I choose to capture on c7. In fact, I would only create problems for me, since my weak c-pawns will become immediately exposed along the open c-file, that your rook will capture with tempo.

V: In short, 15...d5 seems viable and good to me at a glance, while 15...Ng6 is not a bad move, but you need to push d5 sooner or later. So it'll be up to you to pick the moment: now or in one of the following moves.



V: I am definitely in a defensive position here: it's strange that we followed what seemed like solid theoretical ground, and then white ended up worse after just a few naturally-looking but apparently erroneous moves [I played] out of the theoretical lines.




V: As a general strategy, the side that defends usually benefits from equal exchanges. My knight looked nice in the center, but it wasn't stable on d4 (it can always be chased away, and you were threatening to open up lines, which would be very bad for white to allow, since white has less space and less (well) developed pieces. Hence my choice to exchange knight for bishop and transition into a simpler endgame-like position with two bishops vs. two knights in the presence of heavy pieces, too.

F: I think I still like the option of taking with my queen over taking with the pawn. It just seems like it weakens my king side in the future. All though I do see how it can support my d file pawn.

V: You have correctly identified the issues to consider with both ways of recapturing on e6. Taking with the f-pawn will also close the e-file for you, and thus diminish the support of your advanced e4-pawn, since your rook on e8 will then end up being misplaced.



V: After 17.cxd5 Nexd5 18.c4 (or 18.Rd1), it seems to me that black has a slightly preferable endgame. I am trying to "muddy the waters" here a bit by not allowing the position to open up still, via 17.c5. Objectively, this is somewhat counter-intuitive, since bishops are better in open positions, while knights are stronger in closed positions where they can maneuver more nimbly across squares of both colors... We shall see if that general rule proves critical in our position; but for you it's worth to remember it and factor into your decisions.



F: I'm considering c6 or b6. The problem I see with either one is that it will open up long diagonal for your bishop.

F: I thought about still going Ng6 but then if you do capture my pawn on c7 and I move Rc8 your bishop is now protected from the pawn on c5 and also the pawn is now protected by that bishop being able to move d6.

F: Rc8 now might be a decent move as well. Prevents that diagonal from opening up and protects the c7 pawn.

V: I agree. You're considering some of the same nuances that I pointed out and that drive white's game here. White needs to open up the bishops, but also needs to develop the heavy pieces, ideally before opening up the game. Black could benefit from keeping the central pawns intact and opening the game on the queen-side. I don't see the point in ...c6, but I do see the point behind ...b6 and to a degree behind ...Rc8 as well (as a prep move for a future ...b6 perhaps).

V: Your pawn on c7 is indeed threatened at the moment, and you need to do something about it. For a moment I considered ...Qc6 but after b4 it's not clear where this is going, and the queen is a piece that needs space to unfold, not to "hide" behind pawns.



V: In considering my options for move 18, I notice that 18.b4 may not be so good, since after 18...bxc5 19.bxc5 Qc6, my c-pawns are quite weak and black can come to dominate the b-file, e.g., 20.Be3 Nd7 21.Qa3 Qb5 22.Rfe1 Reb8, etc. -- white assumes a distinctly defensive and awaiting posture with little chance for meaningful counter-play. Not the best prospect in many cases, if one can avoid it.

V: In comparison, 18.cxb6 removes all vestiges of weaknesses in black's camp, while white's c3-pawn is a weakness in white's position, located on the semi-open c-file, which black owns. Quite possibly not too hard to hold as a position, but it also may have a defensive flavor for a while.

V: The third option I see is 18.Be3, which denies black the opportunity (at least for now) to open the c-file, where white's weaknesses are located.



F: I'm considering Nd7 to help attack the c5 pawn as I don't want to take at the moment with bxc5 as it would leave my a5 pawn pretty weak.

F: another option I'm considering is Nf5 as to threaten your bishop and also leaving my other knight to still support the e4 pawn

V: I hadn't considered 18...Nd7, but I definitely thought about 18...Nf5 when playing my 18.Be3. I thought that 18...Nf5 was a very decent response, pressuring my defender of the dark squares (and c5-pawn), and threatening to either exchange it and win a pawn, or make your e-pawn mobile (since I've blocked it currently with my bishop). . Now that I think about it, 18...Nd7 has a solid idea behind it too, which would likely force me to initiate the exchange of pawns, thus opening the c-file for your rook(s). A pleasant choice you have, I must say. I wish I could say the same for my [white’s] set of choices. :-)



V: 19.b4 and 19.Qa3 -- which claim to support the attacked white c-pawn both look untenable. 19.Qa3 puts the queen essentially out of play for an indefinite period, while defending a single pawn which may not be so important anyway, while 19.b4 bxc5 20.bxc5 Qc6 21.Qa3 Qb5 22.Rfe1 Reb8 seems to be positionally very clearly a black advantage. So I pick the simplest 19.cxb6, admitting the opening of the c-file in exchange for ridding my army of one weak pawn-target.


[19.cxb6 cxb6]

V: White must look for a solid defensive plan; black is clearly better positionally after 19 moves -- is this assessment obvious to you?

Part 3 continues here: