Learning points from GM Jacob Aagaard's Singapore lecture - A trainer's perspective
Note: The cover pic was swiped from Professor Koh Tse Hsien's fb page.
GM Jacob Aagaard is currently now on the Singapore leg of his Asian chess lecture tour and this segment was extremely well organized by IM Kevin Goh and his kakis. Although I reached the venue (AQueen Hotel in Paya Lebar) well on time, there were only seats left in the back two rows with 70+ interested parties comprising a sizable number of masters and top junior players in attendance.
I'm not going to spoil the market by describing what he taught (automatic decisions, simple decisions, critical moments and strategic decisions, in case you are wondering) but one particular example he showed and how he treated the resulting queries was particularly insightful from a chess trainer's perspective.
This example given by Aagaard (Leko vs somebody) is discernibly better for White and soon enough, one bright spark suggested a4-a5 and to meet ...b6-b5 with a5-a6, fixing the weakie on a7, with Aagaard nodding his approval. What was insightful to me was the manner he treated the resulting queries though.
A curious dude wanted to know why White should not play Bc5 here to strengthen his 'weak' dark-square bishop (while attacking the rook) and encourage Black to exchange off his 'strong' e4-knight. Jacob took his question very seriously and explained in detail why the d4-bishop is not weak despite being on the same colour as the centre pawns. It is not only putting pressure on the a7-pawn but will also assist in the forthcoming kingside attack with f4-f5 and e5-e6 diagonal opening threats and also helps to hold the queenside. He even gave different examples of the bishop's possible other placements to show that it is still strong regardless. Jacob went on to qualify why the firmly entrenched e4-knight is not that great, despite it being on a excellent outpost. Yes, it is centralized and seems to control or attack a lot of squares. However, it only 'looks' good but has nothing really to do. White can play around this knight and prepare his eventual kingside attack with g- and f-pawn breaks after massing the heavy pieces behind them. Morever, it is there 'alone', having no support from the rest of the Black pieces. Jacob even went on to mention that he will keep the bishop pair as he will always have the option of exchanging the e4-knight with the light square bishop at the right time (and still retain the better bishop). He went on to qualify that by retaining the bishop on d4, Black will always have to keep an eye on the a7-pawn while White builds up the forthcoming kingside attack.
Basically, he gave a 'lecture-within-a lecture' on good and bad pieces and they are only as good as what they can achieve or threaten and not because they 'look' good or bad according to conventional theory (centralised piece, bishop blocked by own centre pawns etc).
Now, a trainer who is patient enough to explain all these in detail (he even thanked the participants for raising such issues) and treat the digressed subject matter seriously even though it is not the topic at hand, is certainly worth his salt. After all, most chess audiences are of varying ability. I certainly appreciate his professionalism as well as his attention to detail with respect to audience queries and answers.
Congrats for a great lecture and thanks to Kevin and gang (Peck Seah, I heard, marshalled everything marvellously) for a wonderful time!