A Sample Coaching Game - Part 5

Jan 23, 2013, 2:45 AM |

A Sample Coaching Game with a Student

(Part 5) 

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]
Part 4 (http://blog.chess.com/_valentin_/a-sample-coaching-game---part-4) - [25…Nxd4 26.cxd4 Qe7 27.Rac1 Ra7 28.Rc5 b4 29.Rfc1 Kg7 30.Kg2 Rd8 31.Rc7 Rxc7 32.Rxc7 Rd7 33.Rc8 Ne8 34.Qb8]


[ Continuing below after white's move 34.Qb8 ]

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

F: That was the one move I was somewhat anticipating.

F: I thinking Kf8 might be the best move.

V: The alternative (escapes with the knight) will allow white to win the exchange -- via g4-g5 after first forcing either the black king to f6 (with checks along the 8th rank) or the knight to f6.

V: Can you picture these?

V: The other question is whether white can win more (positionally or tactically) after the potential ...Kf8.

V: The key observation is that the knight would be (permanently) pinned after ...Kf8, which is a burden to take on -- but if you have to do it, you have to do it so long as it doesn't incur additional downsides.

F: I do see the weakness in Kf8, but the alternatives don't look a whole lot better.

F: The other options I keep seeing end up in me losing my knight. with little in return


[34…Kf8 35.g5]

V: We're entering a forced line, it seems, for the next few moves. Still, let's discuss as what I see may not be exactly what you notice.

F: I have to move my rook. Options would be Rd6 or Rb7.

F: Rb7 would force a queen move and give me an extra move to either swap pawns or move h5 depending on what you do.

V: Think again! There's a nice tactical refutation to both of these moves you suggest, involving what's commonly called an "overload" (as a tactical theme). Do you see it?

F: with Rd6 I'm seeing that if you take gxh6 then I'm in trouble as I can't defend my knight anymore at risk of you promoting, but with Rb7 I'm not seeing the same thing so I think I'm missing something there.

F: I think I see it now. Rxe8, Qxe8, Qxb7.

V: Good job -- that's the tactics I was referring to: Rxe8+, forcing the queen to retake and thus release the defense of the rook. That's called "overload", since the piece (in this case, your queen) is overloaded with (defensive) duties and can't maintain all of them, requiring it to drop some, at which point material is lost. That was part of the reason I played Qb8 -- to not only apply pressure along the back rank (positionally) but to create this tactical possibility.

V: These are very useful and characteristic themes in tactics. I see your Tactics Trainer score is relatively low (compared to your actual playing score), which explains why you're not noticing them regularly. With practice that comes; and it is one important growth path toward stronger chess skills.

F: As far as tactics go it seems like it's been a rollercoaster. For a while I struggle, then all of sudden I see tactics pretty far ahead and then I struggle again. I think my lack of playing time as of late is the main reason.

F: Is the forced line hxg5, Bxd7, Qxd7?

V: I believe you have to take that line, yes. Otherwise you lose a piece with no compensation. Whereas in that line you end up an exchange down, which is almost always preferable.


[35…hxg5 36.Bxd7 Qxd7 37.hxg5]

V: BTW, in that game you recently lost as white against the 1700+ player, do you see where things started going wrong? What positional mistake did you commit?

F: I did several things wrong. I think I was too aggressive with my pawns early on instead of developing pieces. This also led me to not be able to castle and I ended up with king greatly exposed.

F: My rooks never were able to become active pieces.

F: I think move 10 might have been the biggest mistake.

V: Yes, when you push pawns too early too far, (1) they become easy targets, because they're far from the rest of your army; and (2) your king gets less pawn cover, which makes him vulnerable. None of those two are good things, so resist the temptation -- it'll pay off almost always.

F: I'm thinking Ke7 to unpin my knight.

V: That's indeed the only possibility to try to unpin the knight, I agree. Without unpinning it, black would be forced to just shuffle back and forth in hopes that white cannot accomplish anything in the meantime -- which is not a very inspiring place to be, though sometimes passive defense is all one has available. 37...Ke7 is worth examining, I think. Do you have a plan how to respond to 38.Qe5+ in response?

F: I think I have a few options to defend against that.

[37…Ke7 38.Qe5+]

V: Let's see; it can be tricky to defend against a queen checking, accompanied by a rook standing by.

F: I guess the two options are to move back to f8 or to block with my queen and possibly exchange queens. Problem with exchanging queens would be that I would then have two pawns in the same file and a knight vs a rook.

F: There's a possibility of a draw by repetition with Kf8, Qh8, Ke7, etc. but your dominate pieces I'm pretty sure that would not be your course of action.

V: Indeed, if queens come off the board, black will have an impossible time holding the endgame, particularly because the queen-side pawns will fall quickly: the knight can't reach to defend them while the white rook will gladly take both and help promote its own pawns.

V: After ...Kf8, white won't go for the perpetual check, due to the material and positional advantage they have. However, that move at least keeps the game going. White's goal in that case could be to coordinate attacking the pinned knight and some weak pawns, of which a5 and d5 are relatively easier targets.

V: Do you see those ideas I shared (with vs. without queen exchange) in the ...Qe6 vs. ...Kf8 scenarios?

F: Yes. I don't think either option is ideal at this point, but Kf8 gives me a fighting chance (well probably not against you but perhaps similarly rated opponents)...


[38…Kf8 39.Ra8]

V: I chose 39.Ra8 (over the alternative 39.Rc5 I considered) because that move not only attacks a weak pawn but also keeps the pin on the knight, thus constraining the movements of black's queen and king as well.

F: Qb5 looks like about the only move at the moment.

V: Yes, black is in almost zugzwang. You're familiar with the zugzwang concept and technique, right?

V: This isn't exactly zugzwang, since black would like to make a move -- in zugzwang, the best move by definition is skipping a turn and any move creates a worse situation that no move at all, but the game has rules that players take turns ;-) In that sense, this is not a zugzwang, but black has so few moves available that it hints at the idea.

V: In response to 39...Qb5, I was considering either 40.Qd6+ (notice the use of the pin) or 40.Ra7, threatening Qh8x. Does black have defense against these?

F: It doesn't look good for either move. At least with Qd6 I can move my king and my knight wouldn't be currently threatened by two pieces. Ra7 looks more bleak to me.

F: After Ra7, Qe7+ is a major threat and shortly after that it looks like checkmate.

V: I agree; I initially examined 40.Qd6+ as an appealing possibility, but there was a perpetual check by black in some important lines. Did you see it? E.g., 39...Qb5 40.Qd6+ Kg7 41.Qe7? Qxe2 and now black threatens a perpetual check with Qg4+, Qh5+, and Qd1+.

V: Hence, I came to the conclusion that 39...Qb5 40.Ra7 is a quieter but stronger option for white.

F: might it be better then to sacrifice that pawn and not to move Qb5?

F: although, i don't see any other options really

V: Is Qb5 better than Qc6 (the only other move that moves a piece and protects your knight), from what you're seeing?

V: Those two are your best options to compare, it seems -- though, admittedly, neither looks very good in the end.

F: I'm not seeing any way out of this. I see checkmate in 2-4 no matter what I do.

V: Hmm, not really checkmate... but the alternative is for black to allow a queen exchange, at which point the black queen-side pawns will fall quickly. For example, 39...Qc6 40.Ra7 (threatening Qh8x as well as Qe7+) Kg8 41.Qe7 (threatening Qxf7+) Qe6 42.Qxe6 fxe6 43.Rxa5. But if 39...Qb5, then 40.Ra7 makes Qe7 unavoidable with a subsequent Qxf7 and checkmate, so that path loses much faster. The other options: 39...Qe7 40.Qh8x, and 39...Qe6 40.Qh8+ Ke7 41.Qxe8+ and white wins the black queen with a checkmate after that.


[39…Qc6 40.Ra7 Kg8 41.Qe7 Qe6 42.Qxe6 fxe6 43.Rxa5]

V: We have now entered a technical, simple endgame. We haven't really played a real endgame with you so far (our previous game ended earlier), so do you know how endgame thinking differs (and is more effective) than the process that players typically use in the middle portion of a game?

F: Endgame the pawns become even more important and also the kings tend to be more involved. The strategy often changes to promoting pawns.

Part 6 continues here: