A Sample Coaching Game with a Student - Part 1

Jan 22, 2013, 5:12 AM |

A Sample Coaching Game with a Student
(Part 1) 

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 of the following parts.


If you like what you see below, and wish to experience a learning like it, please visit my coach page and contact me:

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)



V: Welcome again! Any special opening you'd like to explore in this game?

F: I've been playing around with the albin counter gambit a lot and its worked fairly well for me, but I probably see the Kings pawn opening more than anything else. I usual counter with the sicilian, but I'm still learning the nuances of that.

V: I confess to being a non-expert in the Sicilian, though I know a fair bit from experience and having learned from others who are experts.

V: I saw the following informative and inspiring (for black) article on the Albin Countergambit, which I have never seen over the board: http://www.jeremysilman.com/chess_bits_pieces/063003_xrated_albin_cg.html

V: Given that, would you rather I open with 1.d4 (my traditional), 1.Nf3 (sometimes), or 1.e4 (where both of us will explore somewhat new territory)? I'm fine with all listed options, and 1.c4 is certainly fine too, if you'd like to play a more positional game (which is usually what follows after an early c4)..

F: I honestly don't think I've ever played against someone who started with c4. I probably see e4 the most, followed by d4, then Nf3

V: Great, let's explore a little then.



F: looking through the game explorer it looks like Nf6 is the most common move for black here, but e5 or g6 seem to have slightly better results for black.

F: Watched a video on thechesswebsite.com about this opening and some of the lines and reasoning behind them. Looks like white takes immediate control of the d5 square with this move.



V: What you've just responded with 1...e5 leads to asymmetrical and interesting variations of the English opening. Quite interesting strategically.

V: People who wish to avoid black's center control allowed by 1...e5 usually open 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4, and then black no longer has the option of 2...e5. It's a frequent clever choice of move order, for that purpose.



F: either Nf6 or d6 both appear to be good moves for black

F: Or even Bb4

F: Bb4 could cause white to have double pawns in the C file to deal with early on.

V: Bb4 would be an off-beat choice, while Nf6 is definitely standard (and most popular). As far as d6, that suggests that your dark bishop is set to come out on the long diagonal, but your e5-pawn blocks that diagonal for now, so it has long-term implications.

V: Looking at Game Explorer, the moves you talked about seem to be 3 of the 4 most popular choices (the other one being Nc6). So feel free to move whichever you like most. They'll lead to different positions, styles, and ideas that we can explore in subsequent moves.



V: Of the two main moves here (3.g3 and 3.Nf3), I pick one. The two might in some cases lead to the same position, with transposition.


[3.Nf3 Nc6]

V: I like solid moves in openings; 4.g3 is just such a move, played regularly (including recently) by top players in the world.



V: The idea is to develop the king-side without hurrying to define how precisely the center and queen-side will look. This is a common theme for white in the English openings: not hurrying to open their cards, and trying to exploit the weaknesses of whatever choice black makes for development.

F: I was thinking of Bb4 for the next move. One to get my bishop out so I have castling king side as an option and to also put pressure on your knight. Usually the d file pawn is out already when I play Bb4 so it pins the knight to the king, but I think it would still work in this case.

V: It's certainly a good (and popular) move. Other options that people have tried successfully are 4...d5, 4...Bc5, and even the more aggressive 4...Nd4.

V: Obviously, Bb4 and Bc5 aim for somewhat positional games, whereas d5 tries to open up the center, and Nd4 tries to exchange pieces and diminish white's capabilities.



V: Quick development is what white aims for with 5.Bg2. There is the off-beat 5.Nd5 apparently (with decent results), but I'd rather focus on a mainline in our discussion and learning, and examine that more carefully.





F: The best move for black looks to be castling..... I'm going to likely be putting my games on vacation for the rest of the week. I'll probably be back Friday.

V: Castling is indeed a good move. It develops your pieces quickly and effortlessly -- which is one of the best things one might expect when playing black.


[5…O-O 6.O-O]

F: e4 looks like a good move. Forces you to move your knight and you lose a turn at development, although I do too, but I have advanced my pawn to a square you want to be at.

V: That makes sense. The one thing to watch out for when pushing your pawns, is how to defend or use them effectively after that. Advanced pawns have the tendency to become either very strong or very weak (and a target for the opponent's pieces to pick up).

V: In the current situation, 6...e4 is also the most popular move, where many GM games have ended in draws...



V: Of the few available choices for white, 7.Ne1 seems most reasonable to me, as the others feel speculative and overreaching in some ways. It's a matter of style too, since Ng5 has been played with good results by a number of very strong players too.



F: Re8 was my first instinct for next move. As is Bxc3. Also considered Qd7 or d6. If I don't take the knight now though you could threaten my knight on f6 with yours and I would lose one of the pieces protecting the e4 pawn.

V: I agree that at some point you need to decide whether to exchange my knight on c3, or move back your bishop (since it's only a matter of time, sooner rather than later, before I challenge your bishop via a3 or Nc2). So an exchange on c3 is plausible, as are all the other moves you considered.

V: I note that indeed Re8 and Bxc3 seem to be played most frequently in this position, according to Game Explorer. It may be a matter of transposition of moves, or personal style what you choose in the end.



V: It appears that 8.dxc3 is more promising for white, opening up a diagonal for the dark bishop and removing the potentially weak white d-pawn from the d-file.



F: I was going to say my next move would be Re8 but I was surprised looking at the game explorer how much the odds change after dcx3. h6 appears to be a better move. I'm assuming this is because it prevents your bishop from coming down to the g5 square and pinning my knight to the queen.

V: Precisely. Even in slow openings such as this one, a key point is to avoid allowing your opponent to "tie your hands"; pins are a classical and easy way for tying hands, and they are relatively easily avoided, at the cost of a small weakening of the pawn structure.


[8…h6 9.Nc2]

F: sorry for taking so long… Busiest time of year for me.






















F: my two thoughts for a move are Re8 or d6. Re8 to help support e4 pawn and d6 to open up the diagonal for my bishop.

V: In all likelihood, you will need to play both moves soon: both seem like solid development moves that are useful in this specific situation on the board. Do you consider one of the moves more urgent (time-sensitive) than the other?

F: I would probably give a slight edge to Re8 as it offers immediate fortification of e4.

V: It sounds good to me, too. From what I've seen, the two moves often transpose (one goes first and the other one follows, and vice versa), but in some cases Re8 first tends to yield better results overall.


[9…Re8 10.Bf4]

V: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Frank! I wish you and your family much joy and happiness this season, and in the days and months ahead!

F: Thank you! Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.


[10…d6 11.h3]

F: I was going to move to Bf5 but it looks like with your last move you positioned yourself to move your pawn to g4 to prevent me from staying there.

F: Perhaps Be6 might be better as to attack your c4 paw­­n.

V: Both considerations are very accurate; clearly white's bishop cannot stay too long on f4, so the plan (as in the Kamsky-Svidler game that I just turned away from following verbatim) is to make space for that bishop on g3 (or even h2) by moving h3+g4, thus also capturing some space on the king-side. If you move Bf5, you will run directly into that plan, and give me a tempo -- unless you believe that your bishop on g6 will be so valuable that it's worth it. Regarding Be6, that's along the lines of what Kamsky-Svidler played, so can't be too far from a good move :-). Here's that game, if you don't have a link to it: http://www.chess.com/games/view.html?id=4407557



V: Since 12.Ne3? is not possible (due to 12...g5 -+), white is practically forced into 12.b3, which is not bad -- but it's the only reasonable option I see.



V: This move b3, of course, would only be good in the absence of your dark bishop -- since otherwise white's weakening dark squares on the queen-side would become too vulnerable.

V: It can be said that we're now finished with the opening phase, and each side must create a plan for the game by evaluating the position first. Do you know how to evaluate the position? I have written an article about it (I may have mentioned it before) -- here:

V: What do you notice about my position? Weaknesses you can focus on? Undeveloped pieces you can prevent from engaging effectively? Etc.

F: Sorry for taking so long…


Part 2 continues here: