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A Sample Coaching Game - Part 4

Jan 22, 2013, 6:14 AM 0

A Sample Coaching Game with a Student

(Part 4) 

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]
- Part 3 (http://blog.chess.com/_valentin_/a-sample-coaching-game---part-3) - [20.Qd2 Nf5 21.h4 Nf6 22.Bh3 b5 23.Bd4 Kh7 24.Qf4 g6 25.g4]


[ Continuing below after white's move 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.

F: This is how I'm seeing it right now, 25.... Nxd4, if you the move cxd4 I can then retreat my queen to Q7 or possibly elsewhere. Followed by g5, Ng6. Another option I saw was Nxd4, 26. g4, Nxe2

V: Good eyes! I missed 25...Nxd4 precisely, as I incorrectly (and hastily) looked at the position and was still under the impression that your knight was pinned. But with Qf4 g6 g4 I no longer have a pin on your knight, so it can exchange itself. In reality, white retains some positional advantage after that -- no more weak c3-pawn, no more blocked and weak bishop, etc., but it's a battle.

V: The real (but compounding) blunder was in a different line I had counted on: 24.Qf4 g6 25.Bxf6 (I was hoping for that, but then saw...) Qxf6 26.g4? Qd6! (this is one of the moves I had missed! After that my hanging queen must be exchanged or else you just escape your knight; alternatively, black has 26...Qxh4, pinning white's g-pawn since the queen behind is hanging, so the knight on f5 cannot be taken, 27.e3 Ne7 28.Qxf7+ Kh8, and it's an unclear but sharp position).


[25…Nxd4 26.cxd4]

V: You have few reasonable options on this move 26, because a lot is being threatened, some of which you pointed out in your message during the previous move's discussion. So, if you feel confident in your choice, go ahead and make that move -- or, we can discuss as always.



V: 26...Qe7 was indeed forced for black, or else you lose material.



V: I considered 27.g5 but discovered that it's more important for white to try to capture the open c-file first, since the option of pushing g4-g5 won't go away. What are your plans in this approaching endgame?

F: My 3 pawns in a row are a weakness. I'm thinking of moving Nd7 to cover you from moving Rc5 and also removing the knight from the threat of g5. Even if you move g5 exposing the knight to your bishop my knight is at least covered by my queen.

F: I would like to also eventually push one of my pawns forward so there's not 3 in a row.

V: The geometry of 3 pawns on the same rank is an interesting observation to make. However, that by itself does not make them weak; a principle involving pawns is that they are generally strongest when they are next to each other on the same rank, not one ahead of the other.

V: While Rc5 is a potential threat, It would seem that Rc7 is an even more serious threat to account for (the famously called, and feared, rook on the 7th/2nd rank), as it can force your queen away with tempo and allow white to double rooks along the c-file, creating strong pressure on black's position left and right. What do you plan to do against this (obvious) threat of Rc7? Both now and in the near future...

F: looking at that now I can't believe I missed Rc7.

F: A few options I see. Still think Nd7 would work. Also Rac8 might be a possibility. As well as Ra7.

V: Rac8 and Ra7 are obvious candidates for countering Rc7. One of the most important points about having an open file is to penetrate behind the enemy's defense line: this is the 7th (or 2nd, for white) rank. That's why it's so thematic in chess. Remember this pattern!

V: While Nd7 might work to meet your goals also, you need to have a concrete plan (and a sequence of moves) for how to meet the likely Rc7 from white, in response. Do you have such a plan?

V: In particular, dangerous seems the combination of Rc7 and a subsequent g5...

F: Was thinking I'm going to be down a pawn but perhaps I might have a way out of it. Not sure if this would how it would play out, but these were my thoughts. 28...b4 29.g5 Nh5 30.Qg4 or perhaps Qe3 Qd6+. Not sure after that.

V: Note that there is no pressure on white to push g5. In chess, very often, the threat is stronger than its execution. White can simply double along the c-file, aiming to get onto the 7th rank soon, and I don't see any risks in that path. g5 can wait till the right moment. What do you think?


[27…Ra7 28.Rc5 b4]

F: Sorry for the delay. I see what you're saying and I'm in a very vulnerable position. The only move I can currently think of if you move Rfc1 is Kg7.


[29.Rfc1 Kg7]

V: White has considerably improved the position in the past 10 moves -- going from a passive defense into an active pressure, holding an open line and nearly all pieces taking optimal positions on the board. Black, in contrast, hasn't made much progress, and what I notice most is that the rooks are disconnected. One of the positional rules of thumb in chess is to keep the rooks as close as possible to being connected (i.e., supporting one another) -- then, they are stronger than the sum of parts. Also, black's central d-pawn has turned from a strength into a weakness...



V: Do you see the idea behind my move 30.Kg2? Why not the obvious 30.Rc7 instead? Hint: Why is deferring Rc7 for a little bit advantageous for white?

F: While I can't see it immediately happening but in a few moves it may prevent my queen from checking your king and potentially capturing a piece in a fork

V: Correct, it places my king away from checks that might occur with tempo (including forks, as you say).


[30…Rd8 31.Rc7]

F: I'm debating if Rd7 or Rxc7 is better.

V: It is normally in favor of the defense to have a single set of rooks on the board -- otherwise the connected attacking rooks can be a formidable force. So you'd have to exchange a set of rooks at some point. Now or soon after. Rxc7 forces it, while Rd7 lets me make a decision, including to avoid an immediate exchange. One question for you is if you want to exchange both sets of rooks -- since Rxc7 Rxc7 Rd7 makes precisely this offer (not clear if white wants it). What do you think? (Note that I am on vacation away from home, so I connect to the I'net not as often as usual; you may have to make your move based on what we've said so far.)


[31…Rxc7 32.Rxc7]

V: I am now back home from vacation, so our discussion can resume to its normal levels.

V: Be sure to pose questions and comments earlier, if possible; doing so in the final 24 hours you have doesn't leave us with much room for meaningful response/discussion.

F: I was on vacation myself... I jumped on for a few minutes but wasn't able to make any moves or analyse this much.

F: I should be back to my normal schedule now.

F: I was debating between Rd7 or Nd7. I felt Rd7 was better in that in appears to force you to make a move with your rook.

F: I also contemplated Qe8


[32…Rd7 33.Rc8]

F: I'm really struggling to find any move that will work here. I'm thinking that preemptively moving my knight out of harm might be best.

V: I agree with you; pre-empting the threat g4-g5 is itself a useful thing to do, given that there are no other active plans in sight. It's useful to think where it might be best to direct the knight, so that it doesn't get stranded and out of play.

F: I think Nh7 would severely limit its movement. Ng8 looks slightly better but where my Queen and pawns are currently placed it doesn't give me many options either. That leaves Ne8.

V: I agree, Ne8 seems most reasonable of the knight options.


[33…Ne8 34.Qb8]

V: Watch out now, after white's 34.Qb8 -- there's some underwater reefs.

Part 5 continues here:


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