A Sample Coaching Game - Part 3

Jan 22, 2013, 5:58 AM |

A Sample Coaching Game with a Student

(Part 3) 

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]
- Part 2 (http://blog.chess.com/_valentin_/a-sample-coaching-game---part-2) - [12…a5 13.Qc1 Qd7 14.Kh2 Ne7 15.Nd4 d5 16.Nxe6 Qxe6 17.c5 b6 18.Be3 Nd7 19.cxb6 cxb6]


[ Continuing below after black's move 19...cxb6 ]

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

F: It seems strong but fragile at the same time. I feel like really need to hold onto that d5 pawn to protect the e4 pawn. It seems with one wrong move on my part my strength could fall apart quickly.



F: My first thought is b5, but I'm hesitant on that move for some reason. Seems like it will open up the game for your bishops.

V: You are correct that my bishops are weak at the moment, but given more space could gain strength significantly. I also agree that your pawns d5-e4 are the cornerstone of your positional advantage, so you must strive to maintain and perhaps develop the pressure that they place on my position. What is the idea behind the potential move b6-b5 you're contemplating? I do not see it. I see, at the same time, a couple of alternative moves which do increase the pressure on my position... As a general principle, if you have no direct threats to counter or direct winning moves in a game, strive to increase the activity of your pieces -- e.g., by finding one of your pieces that isn't as good as it can be, or find one of the opponents' best pieces and try to push it to where it won't be as active and useful. These two high-level strategies lie at the core of how many (most, perhaps) strong players think. How can you apply that to the current position? (That's my hint to you.)

F: The reason for considering b5 was I was anticipating a possible move of c4 by you.

V: c4 may come at some point, with the goal to destabilize your center, but for now it's not good for white, as it would have the counter-effect of opening up the c-file and weakening my c-pawn further (assuming an exchange on c4 occurs). So, while paying attention to this potential is important, right now doesn't feel like the critical time to try to prevent it. Unless, of course, you have no better ideas for how to improve the position of your pieces. Let's ask this question: which pieces of yours could be better placed? (There may be multiple ones.) If so, what would be the ideal square for each, at this moment? (Ignore reality here for a moment -- if you could be granted a wish to lift a piece and move it to its ideal square, independent of rules of chess, what would that wish be for you?

F: I actually had a bunch of thoughts last night I wanted to type out but didn't get a chance to. I might not get a chance to tonight either.

F: First thoughts, Nf6. This covers both the d and e pawns, but takes away a protector of the b pawn, which isn't as much of an issue since the queen currently covers that pawn now.

F: Second is Rac8, which places a rook on your weak c-file. It doesn't seem to do much now but perhaps will setup a move in the future.

F: Another is Nf5 which puts pressure on your dark square bishop which at the moment is both cramped on that side, but it is more open towards my end leading to possibly better attacks. If I can eliminate that bishop and keep my pawn structure your light colored bishop is still currently stuck.

F: your last question is actually tough. I have to ponder that a little.

F: As of right now I'm probably leaning towards Nf5 as it would connect my queen and rook and attack your bishop.

V: Indeed, I agree -- also in line with my last question -- that your two most "underactive" pieces at the moment are Ne7 and Ra8 -- so moves like Nf5 and Rac8 are natural candidates, and possibly strong candidates too, for the reasons you mention. That earlier question I posed -- how would you ideally place your pieces -- is quite important to keep in mind when you're playing a positional maneuvering game (like what we have right now).


[20…Nf5 21.h4]

V: The point of my move 21.h4, I assume, is fairly clear.

F: I assume it's to give your bishop room to maneuver.

V: Yes, following the principle of improving the position of the worst placed piece.

V: I only have a small window of opportunity for this, while your knight on d7 is still reasonably far from my king. If it were on f6 or e5, that would not have worked, since with Ng4+ you would then take my Be3 and damage my pawn structure simultaneously.

F: Nxe3 is looking like a good choice for me. With you possibly moving Bh3 that would make moving Rac8 vulnerable several moves down the line.

V: I agree with the claim in the second sentence, but the first sentence wasn't clear to me. Why would ...Nxe3 be good for black here, according to you?

V: In the interest of time, if you need to move (I see you have ~1 day left only before the time control) go ahead and move what you feel is best.

F: It would eliminate your bishop which has some strength right now. In also doing that it would also prevent my knight from being pinned if you do move Bh3. I suppose that I would have options to move my queen to prevent being pinned, but then I would be tied to the knight as the only other piece that could then protect the knight would be the g pawn

F: after looking at it for a while it also looks like my other knight would be weak if I left it where it's currently at. I'm now leaning towards Nf6 to support the d5 pawn as well as put possible pressure in future moves on the side with your king.

V: I agree that your knight on d7 begs for more activity. Also, the knight on f5 is more active (and therefore currently more valuable) than my bishop on e3 (which has purely defensive duties, including blocking your d- and e-pawns), so the exchange would seem to be somewhat in white's favor.


[21…Nf6 22.Bh3]

V: What are your thoughts now that my light-squared bishop finally saw something other than your e4-pawn sitting against it? How can you utilize your knights against my (increasingly active) bishops, and press on my weaknesses? Is white threatening anything in particular at the moment?

F: White threatens my b6 pawn indirectly because I likely need to move my queen soon so my Knight is no longer pinned to it.

F: I could cover that pawn with my rook since I can no longer exchange my knight for your bishop.

V: Well, you can exchange, but you'd be left with a rook + knight for my queen, which is not reflective of your superior position lately; hence, an exchange is undesirable for you at the moment, indeed.

V: So yes -- your b6-pawn is threatened, and your knight on f5 which is pinned is potentially vulnerable to combinations (even if none seem to work right now).

F: I'm thinking of pushing my pawn to b5 to remove the threat as well as also prevent you from moving up your pawn. Also thinking Rab8 to support that pawn, but then I could possibly threatened by your dark squared bishop

V: Rab8 doesn't change your pawn structure -- to the extent that you like it as is (chasing by my bishop via Bf4 doesn't do much, you can escape it via Rb7 or even move the rook to the c-file, since the bishop no longer would aim at b6). At the same time, the alternative of pushing b6-b5 makes changes to your structure (pawns never go backward -- a common-sense rule of thumb people often cite), so it must be well-understood, if you wish to do it. In particular, pushing b5 opens the e3-a7 diagonal and makes my bishop potentially more mobile than it is at the moment. I agree that you need to be prepared for a potential push c3-c4 by white at some point in the future -- perhaps not immediately, but still.

V: In short, both moves Rab8 and b5 are possible and not necessarily bad; it all depends on what you wish to do next, and how it ties in (or not) to what each of these moves accomplishes.

F: I thought about …Qe5, thinking you might take Bxb6 and I could counter Nxh4 since now your pawn is pinned, but I think you would either counter …Qe5 with Bxf5 or Bf4.

F: Perhaps g6 to support my Knight so I can then unpin my queen from it. I don't necessarily like the idea of trading your bishop for my knight and leaving my pawn structure weakened in the process

F: Never mind on g6, it would leave my h6 pawn hanging

V: You correctly guessed that in response to a potential 22...Qe5 I would not take 23.Bxb6 immediately, but likely preface it by 23.Bxf5 Qxf5 and only then 24.Bxb6, leaving white with an extra pawn and black with not much compensation to show for it.


[22…b5 23.Bd4]

V: What ideas come to mind next? Any threats that white is making? Any pieces that need improvement in activity or position? Any tactical or strategic continuations of plans you've already started executing on previous moves? Those are all common questions to ask yourself on every move (outside of the opening).

F: I'm feeling a little hemmed in now. I'm currently debating moving my N6 knight but that feels like it would put me back where I started. I know at the moment it's somewhat safe. I foresee a Qf4 in the future for you which I'm seeing difficulty in defending at the moment unless I'm missing something.

F: I have to be honest, I've barely had time the last week to take a long look...

F: i've been looking at g6, but I would have to move Kg7 first.

V: So your Nf5 is pinned, and the queen is the only piece defending it at the moment, but the queen can't move anywhere since it won't continue to defend the knight in the current setup. Logically, the only other possibilities for defending it are via g6 (as you mentioned), via Qg6 (after moving Nf6 out of the way), or there's a third option too... which seems best to me. Can you spot it? Hint: It's not exactly defending it, but it's preventing the present attack on Nf5.

F: …e3?

F: Don't know if this is it, but I'm seeing possibly e3, fex3, Ne4

V: Pushing e4-e3 is interesting, though white can take Bxe3, without damaging its king-side pawn structure, no? What would then happen after 23...e3 24.Bxe3 Ne4 25.Qd3 -- in exchange for an important central pawn (sacrificed), black is somewhat more free, though not fully.

V: What about h6-h5 with the idea to cover the pin via Nf6-Ng4 on a subsequent move? Would that work for black?

V: I think I can see a refutation of the h6-h5 idea (i.e., white wins material); can you see it?

F: Qf4 or Qg5

F: If I did move e3 and you countered Bxe3 it might proceed something like this: 24.Bxe3 Nxe3 25.Bxe6 Nxf1+ 26.Rxf1 Rxe6

F: I could exchange my queen for your rook and bishop, but then again I also lose a pawn in the process so I'm still down material

F: and my structure would be very weak

V: 23...h5 24.Qf4/Qg5 wins a pawn for white, after 24...Ng4+, a move that saves further material losses. I also saw 23...h5? 24.Bxf6 Qxf6 (not 24...gxf6?? 25.Qf4, and white wins the knight on f5) 25.Qxd5 Nd6, and white is pawn up with now an active light-squared bishop and good chances.

V: As far as 23...e3 24.Bxe3 Nxe3? 25.Bxe6 Nxf1+ 26.Rxf1, I believe this line would be an easy win for white. The material advantage is significant, and black is far from being able to build a fortress (the typical drawing mechanism in Q vs. R+N/P positions).

V: In any case, white is threatening to win a pawn via Bxf6 in the same way I showed above. The question is whether black can do anything better (or get a good compensation if the pawn can't be saved), and if so, how...

F: This may not end up being the best move for me, but after considering many things it's what I'm going with. I was using up vacation time. I think I'm still going to end up down a pawn...



V: A pawn I can see; maybe even a piece!

V: You see how painful a pinned piece can become, literally in 3-4 moves the position changed radically and now you (black) are thinking how to save it, while all game long it was me (white) who was not doing so well...



V: Here's another lesson to be aware of: in getting excited about doing even better than I had previously seen (24.Bxf6 Qxf6 25.Qxd5 Nd6 26.Rac1, etc. with an extra pawn), I chased winning a piece and apparently blundered a detail that prevents the combination I had in mind. Now I no longer see even how to win a pawn...


[24…g6 25.g4]

V: Do you see why 25.Bxf6 doesn't do much for white, and do you see why 25.g4 isn't nearly as good for white as I might have anticipated it to be?

F: I have several thoughts about this. I don't have time to map them out at the moment but I should be able to share tomorrow. I think a couple different ways to avoid losing a pawn or a piece.

Part 4 continues here: