Concrete Problems, Part 4
"clairvoyance" + 630x354 = this. Enough said.

Concrete Problems, Part 4


    Hello everyone! I'm writing this intro on a Sunday - unusual for someone like me who usually takes the first couple of days of my blogging week off. But I figure that I need to start posting more frequently - after all, @EOGuel, an excellent blogger in his own right, posts at least twice a week, and I think it helps if new readers don't have time to forget about me between posts.

    It's not going to be hard with IM Herman Grooten's award-winning classic by my side. Chess Strategy for Club Players is a gift that keeps on giving: many dozens of GM games and exercises and a treatment of chess strategy which lines up beautifully with what I've posted so far.

    Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoy this post.

    "It is easier to climb Mount Everest than it is to beat Garry Kasparov" - a GM, quoted by @Debistro

    Quotes are a wonderful thing. The one featured above (taken from this delightful forum thread) epitomizes the vast range of chess skill levels. Another one ("every 400 point difference is equal to being roughly twice as good at chess as a weaker player", paraphrased, I can't remember who said this) allows me to explain chess ratings to non-chess players.

    In short, titled players are amazing. A 2200 has 4 times the chess skill of a 1400. A 2600 has double that. And as we saw in my last post - titled players spit on moves and ideas that amateurs are afraid of. In this post, we'll look at a few examples and simply ask: How?

    Let's start with last week's example. I annotated it simply last time, but the opening has some hidden depths which I can't wait to look into.

    Just as it looks like Black has achieved a key break, the strong 16. Ne3! shatters the illusion. Of course, most pawn breaks are more convincing than this. In one of my 90 30 games (yes, the same one), the refutation required me to string together a few different elements of the position in the face of some psychological pressure, and as is usual for games I use for these posts, I wasn't up to the task.

    I've had dozens of games where I've traded the opponent's doubled rooks off and reached a very drawish position, even when winning. If you've been reading my other installments, you've seen me blow a large advantage over @philidor_position by doing this, and I've done it in countless rapid games. Even in endgames with just one rook, a certain fear of invasion exists: after all, there are a lot of loose bits. But masters? They just cut off all of the meaningful entry squares and beat their opponents elsewhere on the board. In the following masterful positional game, White was 14 years old.
    Now it's your turn to demonstrate your rook-ignoring skills. Can you play my game against @philidor_position better than me?
    Likewise, for titled players, even the most massive piece isn't a good piece unless it works together with the rest of its army, and good pieces don't seem to scare them even when said pieces are truly scary. Get a load of the following annotation, where Mr. Grooten waves off a seemingly massive White knight on c6.
    That's right: instead of putting a Knight on a square where it looks amazing, the author said a little pawn move which may or may not be necessary and may or may not be weakening could be better. But nonetheless, 26. h3 legitimately looks better than 26. Nc6, because White can put the Knight on c6 any time he wants to.
    How do these masters see through ghosts so well? Experience? Foresight? Positional feeling? Almost by definition, it has to be all of these. But we amateurs don't have those things. As for me, simply being intentional in doing and asking myself a couple of things has helped.
    I've helped the "pawn break" illness by not allowing them if I can and within reason.
    I've helped the "rook fear" illness by asking myself which pieces I actually want to exchange, and when that fails, just being intentional about not automatically trading all of the heavy pieces.
    And as for the "strong piece" illness? I had a 90 30 game, just today, in the same opening as my game against @ironlorcan, with the same Knight heading into f4. And this time, I didn't make the same mistake.
Thanks to everyone for reading! Be sure to leave a comment and join Blogosphere,'s premier group for bloggers and blog fans. Until then, good chess.